Louisiana’s rich, unique coastal systems are crucial to our nation’s economy, with the world’s largest port system, more oil production than anywhere else in the United States and containing the world’s most traveled waterway. But this same area is critically endangered. While 40 percent of the country’s wetlands are in this state, 80 percent of the nation’s wetland loss occurs here. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Louisiana has lost approximately 1,900 square miles of land since 1932, and a recent LSU study shows the state stands to lose more than 60 miles of critical hurricane evacuation routes due to subsidence. In other words, Louisiana is on a coastal precipice that truly needs – and deserves – expert attention.
LSU’s history of excellence and leadership in coastal research have had tremendous impact on the state’s coastal crisis, but the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill served as a reminder that there’s still a long way to go before the biggest issues are addressed and resolved. The announcement of plans for a world-class Water Campus in downtown Baton Rouge, which includes an LSU and Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority-led $16 million small-scale physical model of the Mississippi River, offers real hope for a real solution.
The model will span 190 river miles, from Donaldsonville to the Gulf of Mexico. It will use precisely selected and calibrated synthetic sand to simulate the sediment transport characteristics of the Mississippi River. It will be one of the largest most dynamic models in the world, and as such, it will attract coastal scientists from around the world. Construction of the 50,000 square foot facility is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2014.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, together with LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander and other Louisiana university officials, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, President & CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation John Davies, CPRA Chair and Executive Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Activities Garret Graves, President/CEO of the Water Institute Chip Groat, and Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret, outlined plans for the new Water Campus on Tuesday, Dec. 17, at a press conference.
“On behalf of LSU and its more than 200 coastal researchers, we are proud to partner in this endeavor with the Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority to save Louisiana’s coast. The upgraded Mississippi River Physical Model is a promising step toward identifying real solutions that use the power of the river to address our coastal needs,” said Alexander. “As one of only 33 sea-grant colleges nationally, with a dedicated school of the coast and active coastal engineering program, we are committed to the preservation of the coast and the communities it supports. This is how flagship universities work: we bring scientists and policymakers together to develop the best plan for investing precious resources into the lifeblood of our state.”
Other portions of the approximately 30-acre Water Campus, which will be built just south of the Mississippi River Bridge in downtown Baton Rouge, include:
• The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will have offices on the campus, with its 165-member team of administrators, scientists, technicians and office support staff.
• Coastal Education & Research Facility/The Water Institute of The Gulf on the old City Dock will include public education exhibits on coastal processes, resources and challenges, as well as research and meeting facilities.
The Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Commercial Properties Realty Trust will develop and manage the master planned campus designed by Dover, Kohl and Associates. The area is programmed to house scientific, engineering, construction and governmental agencies to create a vibrant experiential environment designed to develop process-based predictive models that link physical and ecological processes. When fully built, this urban, riverside campus anticipates more than 2,000 occupants and will inspire international collaboration with other global water campuses and universities.
“This collaboration will not only help our coastal issues in Louisiana, but will impact every coastal community from the Maldives to Maine,” said Alexander. “We’re right at ground zero. There’s no better place to build this campus.”
For more information about LSU’s coastal expertise, visit www.lsu.edu/coast.
LSU Coastal Facts:
• More than 200 faculty members at LSU are currently involved in coastal-related research, engaging in everything from preventing erosion, keeping our fish and seafood safe and clean, documenting Louisiana culture in fading cities and helping our coastal business community remain strong and active – and everything in between.
• LSU has more than 450 coastal-related grants totaling $73 million. What does that really mean? It means that these dollars have been provided by federal and state funding agencies, industry and sometimes even private citizens to support scientific research, engineering surveys and other such studies necessary to develop a better approach to preserving the coast and enhancing its productivity. It means university researchers entered into a competitive process with faculty from across the nation and won the right to conduct this work because of their high-level of expertise. And it means that researchers at Louisiana’s flagship university are actively focused on one of the state’s leading concerns, leading the way toward real solutions for a very real problem. As a bonus, those research dollars also boost the state’s economy, adding related jobs, bringing expertise into the state and purchasing equipment from local businesses whenever possible.
• LSU literally wrote the book on responding to the oil spill. University faculty were among the first to analyze the oil, gauge the mental health of citizens impacted by the Gulf closures and to detect biological changes in gill tissue of killifish. You can find out more about LSU’s Response to the Oil Spill at http://issuu.com/lsuored/docs/responding_to_the_flow_lsu.
• LSU was designated the nation’s 13th Sea Grant College in 1978 and currently holds the highest performance rating possible by the National Sea Grant Review Panel. It manages and/or participates in more than 50 research, extension, education and communication projects across the coastal landscape and serves as a bridge between academic expertise and the needs of those who manage, conserve, enjoy and make their living on Louisiana’ coast.
• According to a survey conducted by the Public Policy Research Lab, or PPRL, 90 percent of Louisianans believe that LSU’s coastal involvement and research is vital to the state.