Gloomy prospects for Louisiana’s wetlands, says a new report

Louisiana’s coastal marshes are screwed. That’s the cheery news from an expert panel convened last year by the National Academy of Sciences. In a report released yesterday, the panel assessed a 10-year wetlands-restoration plan developed by the Army Corps of Engineers, concluding that the four credible parts of the five-part plan would slow coastal wetlands loss by only 20 percent a year. The original 30-year, $13 billion Louisiana Coastal Area study was shot down after the Bush administration complained that it was too large, too costly, and looked too far into the future. But a longer-term approach is just what the panel endorses. It’s time to start deciding which communities will have to relocate inland as the Gulf of Mexico’s waters continue to advance, say the experts, and map a “managed retreat” from the coast. “If we don’t draw this map,” says geologist and study director Dan Walker, “nature will.”