Katrina and Rita destroyed 217 square miles of Louisiana coastline

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita drowned 217 square miles of Louisiana’s fragile coastline, turning wetlands, undeveloped dry land, and farmland into open water, says a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey. The research underscores the urgent need for a storm buffer of plants, soils, and barrier islands. “We need a new evaluation of the wetlands system as a whole,” says USGS scientist Jimmy Johnston. A separate report from an expert federal panel convened by the National Research Council recommends major changes in land-use regulations for sheltered U.S. coasts — estuaries, bays, lagoons, and mudflats — in order to avoid hefty erosion damage. The panel suggests doing away with local regulation in favor of regional regulation with an eye to long-term effects, and pooh-poohs typical protection methods such as seawalls and bulkheads as doing more harm than good.