SEA LEVEL RISE: ADAPT OR RETREAT

America’s WETLAND Coastal Communities Roundtable Slated for Cameron, LA

The America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) will host a Coastal Communities Roundtable on November 6, 2019, in Cameron, LA, from 9:30 am to noon, at the Cameron Multi-purpose Facility, 122 Recreation Center Drive. The dialogue is designed to address solutions to the global challenge of adapting to the “new normal” of sea-level rise and future storm events.

According to flood inundation maps released by the real estate website, Zillow, and Climate Central, close to $1 trillion dollars in real estate will be lost in America if seas rise six feet. Retreat is not the answer supported by most coastal residents and AWF advocates for living with water and building with nature as a formula for sustaining coastal communities and environments facing rising seas and saltwater intrusion which destroys coastal lands.

“Today’s news is full of gloom and doom tied to sea-level rise projections. In all of the political hand wringing over climate change, we seem to have lost sight of the way to untangle this mess. The magnitude of the issue is hard to digest for many who live in coastal Louisiana as communities, cultures, and ways of life stand to be disrupted and lost,” Val Marmillion, managing director of the America’s WETLAND Foundation, said.

Priceless natural assets have been devalued over time and strengthening our ecosystems to support our economy holds the key to restoring nature’s defenses. The new way forward is to ensure that home values are protected at a time when real estate is vulnerable to devaluation due to the negative stigma associated with rising waters and storms. The new FEMA flood maps will impact the insurability of coastal communities and adapting to ways for keeping local economies strong and growing is an intended outcome from the session.

Sidney Coffee, Senior Advisor to AWF, said, “For those who decide to just take their chances, the odds are not on their side. Communities that fail to act and adapt to sea-level rise, face the growing threat of reaching a tipping point when the perception of risk turns home values upside down. If real estate values decline and investments diminish, the tax base for basic services becomes depleted and what follows is obvious.”

The America’s WETLAND Foundation visited Southwest Louisiana following the devastation caused by Hurricane Rita to put a focus on the needs of the region with a cattle drive. The point was to demonstrate that lost infrastructure and saltwater intrusion from storm surge wreaked havoc on the land and wetlands.

Cameron was hit hard and worked for years to bring back their community. Since Rita, Southwest Louisiana and its leaders have done a lot to build resiliency into governance and private sector growth.

AWF also hosted a Blue Ribbon Resilient Communities Leadership Forum in Lake Charles in 2011 that looked at what may have to change to keep the area prosperous and safe into the future. The Roundtable in Cameron on November 6 will take a look back at that time and the progress that has been made in the region.

Marmillion said, “The Foundation is returning to the region with the next phase – the Sea Safe Community Certification program – to encourage a new era of innovation and solutions. Ideas to match the challenge will flourish with ways to prevent retreat from the communities we love and the homes that hold our investments.”

“In places like the Chenier Plain, with a diverse population and equity ladder, adaptation helps everyone – those who can’t afford to lose their home values and those who depend on government services to provide security and protection along with education and health care,” Marmillion said.

AWF supports the notion that the “new normal” will require a belief system that respects the power of nature to carry us into future prosperity and equity for society, our economy and the environment. It’s not a bad proposition to, in turn, be able to salvage one’s home value, community and culture for enhancing the environment that has allowed America her greatness.