A meeting of 25 coastal scientists and engineers held in July, 2007 released a White Paper concluding that adequate storm surge data do not exist for calibrating and verifying the models used to predict the impact of wetlands (or other features) on storm surge. Therefore, the modeled predictions of future storm impacts in Louisiana are of indeterminable accuracy. This is particularly true when trying to predict the impacts that restoring wetlands may have on reducing storm impacts.
In light of the rapid rate of sea-level rise on the delta, we believe that maintaining the CURRENT acreage of wetlands will be difficult. In coastal communities, the vulnerability to storms will increase with time despite our best efforts. While restoring wetlands is important for many reasons, we shouldn't give communities a false sense of security or hope. Many will need to be abandoned during the next century. Officials should be simultaneously preparing for wetland restoration and for strategic relocation of infrastructure after the next storm. Abandoning some delta communities will allow for the natural expansion of wetlands into that vacated upland.
We should restore coastal Louisiana, but we should also plan to relocate the most vulnerable communities. Failing to do so could cost more lives than were lost in Hurricane Katrina.