Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 10:00 AM


GILL, Ivan P., College of Education, University of New Orleans, Department of Curriculum and Instiruction, Education Bldg, 2000 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, LA 70148,

Educational efforts in Louisiana embrace the idea that wetlands are important to coastal Louisiana. A variety of educational groups convey the message that wetlands, including freshwater swamps and marsh, provide irreplaceable habitat, food sources, and protection from storm surge. Most programs also acknowledge clearly that coastal wetlands in Louisiana are disappearing at alarming rates, threatening cultural, environmental, and economic resources.

However, few local educational programs emphasize the fundamental importance of the geological underpinnings of the coastal land loss. The sediments lost to the coastal system by channelization and levee building are not being replaced at rates sufficient to compensate for subsidence and eustatic sea-level rise. Furthermore, the natural delivery of raw sediments to the deltaic region is a fraction, roughly half, of what it was at the start of the 20th century. With the exception of sediment diversion, all proposed solutions to the land loss problems fail to address the fundamental nature or scale of Louisiana land loss.

The Elephant in the Wetlands is the un-discussed and unmentionable issue: that even if extensive sediment delivery were to begin today, there would be insufficient resources to stabilize the Louisiana coast. The implication here is that some portions of the coastline would be lost regardless of human effort, and others will be lost if the valuable sediment resources are allocated elsewhere. The political decisions that need to be made will be Solomonic in their impact: there will be winners and losers in the sweepstakes, and the decisions will be controversial and profoundly divisive. Isn’t it time to discuss this?