Day 8: Wetlands Restoration and Urban Resilience

Buras, LA

Sportsmen Struggle to Preserve Their Paradise

“Sportsman’s Paradise” adorns license plates in Louisiana, an homage to the abundance of waterfowl, fish, shellfish and other animals that have lured hunters and anglers to the state for centuries. But those pursuits wouldn’t be possible without the “paradise” part of that equation – the coastal marshes and wetlands that sustain all that life. Over the last several decades, sportsmen (and sportswomen) have watched as the bayous and backwaters they once hunted and fished have become open water. Some, like Ryan Lambert, have done more than watch. Lambert is a fixture in Baton Rouge at the state capitol, where he campaigns to bring awareness to the plight of the Louisiana coast and, above all else, inspire action to combat it. Lambert makes his living off of this land with his hunting and fishing guide service, which itself is part of a multi-billion-dollar tourism and outdoor economy. While he waits for politicians and state and federal agencies to get going on bigger projects, like the diversions to bring sediments back into the coastal marshes, Lambert has taken some matters into his own hands – building structures out in waters he frequently uses that help trap sediment and rebuild land. We spent a morning on the water with Ryan and his guides.

New Orleans, LA

Post Katrina and Rita, the Big Easy’s Big Efforts to Stay Dry

When you’re a city that sits below sea level, engineering is key. In fact, the entire city of New Orleans is surrounded by levees. They’re usually pretty good at keeping the Mississippi River outside of town but it also means that when it rains, every drop that falls on the city needs to be pumped back out. It’s a case of a system that works, until it doesn’t. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were dramatic and tragic reminders of what happens, to borrow an old blues lyric, “When the levee breaks.” In response to those natural disasters, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers invested heavily in New Orleans’ flood control infrastructure. We toured one upgraded piece of this puzzle, the 17th Street Canal pumping station.