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Louisiana's Coastal Marshes Destroyed by Nutria and Oil Companies


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#1 LFC

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Posted 28 March 2019 - 11:11 AM

This article is mainly about Nutria, the invasive rodent that was introduced for the fur trade and has been shredding and destroying coastal marshes for decades. It covers a documentary called Rodents of Unusual Size that discusses what's happened and what's being done. They also discuss the impact of commercialization by the oil industry, something not covered much in the documentary.

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The excesses of the fur trade are part of a larger cycle, where coastal commercialization has come at an environmental cost. Even BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, for all its damage, doesn’t capture the extent of the subtler daily degradation oil and gas companies have had on Louisiana’s wetlands. For decades, lax regulations from Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources allowed the energy industry to dredge canals, drill wells, and extract oil. Between this industrialization and the effects of climate change, southern Louisiana’s situation is dire. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, between 1985 and 2010, the state’s coast lost, on average, around a football field of wetlands every hour.

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While coastal degradation has happened, more or less, at the same time as the nutria expansion, there are multiple factors at play. “We’ve lost 1,900 square miles since 1932, when we first started seeing the issues of land loss,” says Jimmy Frederick, the communications director for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, who points to several causes. The levee systems on the Mississippi River prevent necessary sediment from reaching the wetlands, which would normally restore the land. Oil and gas companies have dredged the canals, allowing saltwater to move north into the wetlands and accelerating erosion. “When they were dredged, [the canals] may have been 50 feet wide, and now they’re three or four hundred feet wide,” says Frederick. “Some of them have just turned into open water, and you can’t even see where the canal was.”

The extraction of oil and other minerals further depletes the fragile land. “In sum,” wrote Oliver Houck, a law professor at Tulane University, in the Tulane Environmental Law Journal in 2015, “oil and gas development had put Louisiana’s coastal wetlands in a double bind, torn apart on top and undermined from below.”

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#2 pnwguy

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Posted 28 March 2019 - 06:32 PM

This one talks about problems that come from the flood control systems themselves
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#3 golden_valley

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Posted 28 March 2019 - 08:31 PM

Nutria are also in California and have been working their way closer and closer to the Sacramento River Delta Area.

#4 LFC

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Posted 29 March 2019 - 09:10 AM

View Postpnwguy, on 28 March 2019 - 06:32 PM, said:


Wow. Just ... wow.

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Since the days of Huey Long, Louisiana has shrunk by more than two thousand square miles. If Delaware or Rhode Island had lost that much territory, the U.S. would have only forty-nine states. Every hour and a half, Louisiana sheds another football field’s worth of land. Every few minutes, it drops a tennis court’s worth. On maps, the state may still resemble a boot. Really, though, the bottom of the boot is in tatters, missing not just a sole but also its heel and a good part of its instep.

" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

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#5 Bact PhD

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Posted 29 March 2019 - 06:02 PM

View PostLFC, on 29 March 2019 - 09:10 AM, said:

Wow. Just ... wow.

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Since the days of Huey Long, Louisiana has shrunk by more than two thousand square miles. If Delaware or Rhode Island had lost that much territory, the U.S. would have only forty-nine states. Every hour and a half, Louisiana sheds another football field’s worth of land. Every few minutes, it drops a tennis court’s worth. On maps, the state may still resemble a boot. Really, though, the bottom of the boot is in tatters, missing not just a sole but also its heel and a good part of its instep.

I can recall hearing that statistic about wetland loss when I lived in Louisiana in the '90s. It really is mind-boggling, especially where whole communities, including the one where the son of an old acquaintance of mine lives, are on the verge of disappearing altogether.
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