Coastal Wetlands: Lessons Learned from Past Efforts in Louisiana Could Help Guide Future Restoration and Protection

GAO-08-130 Published: Dec 14, 2007. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 2007.
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Louisiana, home to 40 percent of all coastal wetlands in the lower 48 states, is projected to lose almost 17 square miles of coastline each year for the next 50 years to storms, sea level rise, and land subsidence. Coastal wetlands are an important wildlife and commercial resource, and provide a natural buffer against the storm surge that accompanies storms and hurricanes. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) established a program in 1990 that undertakes projects to stem coastal wetland losses. Recently, the Congress passed other measures that will make billions in new funding available for coastal Louisiana over the next 20 years. GAO has prepared this report under the Comptroller General's authority as part of a continued effort to assist the Congress. GAO reviewed the CWPPRA program to identify the (1) types of projects that have been designed and constructed to restore and protect coastal wetlands, as well as their estimated costs and benefits, and (2) lessons learned from past and ongoing restoration efforts that can help guide future efforts. GAO's review included interviews with each program agency. Although GAO is not making any recommendations, this review emphasizes the need for agencies to carefully consider the lessons learned from the CWPPRA program as they propose significantly larger efforts to restore Louisiana's coast. GAO received technical comments from two agencies which have been incorporated as appropriate.

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