While some may have forgotten the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the people of southwest Louisiana can never forget the devastation of its 2005 sister in destruction, Rita.
The giant hurricane savaged the region. Thankfully, because of the heavy loss of life caused by official neglect ahead of Katrina just weeks before, the urgency of the second storm’s arrival was understood. Evacuation helped to minimize the impact of Rita.
Not physically, though, as Cameron Parish was almost wiped off the face of the earth by the storm. Cameron’s neighbors in Calcasieu and Vermilion parishes also suffered heavily.
It is the area where an effort is being made to restore damaged shoreline that has been battered by erosion in recent years.
Since the last major hurricane event, Ike in 2008, the Cameron shoreline has been the focus of an effort to restore the area.
Gov. Bobby Jindal visited the restoration project that is mining sand from federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico and uses it to rebuild Cameron’s beaches.
The governor and local officials walked on new sand beaches created by the project.
“This shoreline has been ground zero for many of the catastrophic hurricanes that have savagely attacked Louisiana’s coast,” the governor said. He’s right, and we welcome the efforts to push back the impact of coastal erosion.
It’s not cheap: The project visited by Jindal near Holly Beach in Cameron is almost $46 million, in pure state dollars. But the governor’s chief coastal adviser, Garrett Graves of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, says about a billion dollars in projects are on the drawing boards for the region.
The scourge of coastal erosion is not just the work of hurricanes. Louisiana’s subsiding soil and rising sea levels constitute a slow-growing threat in addition to the power of storm surges.
From the Sabine River to the Pearl River, the significant costs of needed projects cannot be entirely funded by the Louisiana taxpayer. Federal support on a larger scale is needed, not only for southwest Louisiana but for other parts of the state where the CPRA projects are envisioned to be even larger and even more expensive.
Still, the Cameron project is one way to demonstrate that effective coastal restoration is possible.
It is also demonstrably desirable, as the beach and the cheniere of the coastal highway — threatened by erosion — is part of the marshland buffer against hurricanes for the more heavily populated parishes to the north. The Calcasieu estuary is an important part of the nation’s energy infrastructure as well as a place of great natural beauty.
Louisiana’s coastal erosion is one of America’s great natural challenges.