LSU study shows economic impact to Baton Rouge from coastal land loss

Stephen Barnes (Source: WAFB)
Stephen Barnes (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The next major hurricane to hit Louisiana's coast could cost the state more than $3 billion in homes, businesses and infrastructure due to coastal land loss, according to a new study.

The report, "Regional Impacts of Coastal Land Loss and Louisiana's Opportunity for Growth," was released by the LSU Economics and Policy Research Group at the E.J. Ourso College of Business.

"What we're looking at here is trying to identify what's at stake and it turns out, we have a lot of skin in the game," said Stephen Barnes, primary author of the study and director of the Economics and Policy Research Group at LSU.

However, the big question is: How does the loss of wetlands on the other side of the state affect the economy right in the Capital City?

"There are a lot of businesses located right out there on the coastal edge, out there in the wetlands, so to speak, and they're out there for a reason - to support international trade with big vessels coming from the Gulf of Mexico. They're out there to support commercial fishing. They're out there to support oil and gas. There's a lot of activity out there, a lot of high-value activity out there, in these at-risk areas today," Barnes explained.

If jobs and infrastructure are impacted again, like the way Hurricane Katrina left the state in financial chaos, it could be a major blow to Baton Rouge. The study shows that if the state doesn't act to restore the coast, Baton Rouge alone could see $60 million in infrastructure replacement costs and $600 million in business disruptions in the wake of a potential storm.

"So, we're talking about very big economic costs of doing nothing," said Barnes.

The state is in the process of developing a 2017 Coastal Master Plan. That plan will basically create more land, which some believe will shore up the state's coastline and better protect the entire state.

"By building those wetlands, that's going to slow advances of storms when the next big hurricane comes and that's what helps reduce damage to the coast and ultimately lower the amount of economic disruptions we'll see here in Baton Rouge," Barnes added.

The study suggested coastal restoration could also help the job market, possibly creating more than 10,000 jobs.

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