Coastal Progress

On Louisiana’s coast, five of the Top 15 U.S. ports operate in concert with 90 percent of the nation’s offshore crude oil and natural gas activity1. They coexist with North America’s most productive wetlands ecosystem, half of Louisiana’s population, and the state’s $2.4 billion seafood industry. With one of the most developed and productive coastlines in the world, Louisiana values its coast as a critically important asset.

To that end, public and private partners have established a new entity called the Water Institute of the Gulf. The institute will coordinate world-class scientific research to address Gulf Coast erosion and flooding challenges. The nonprofit research institute formed in 2011 to accelerate progress in reclaiming Louisiana’s coast and to develop new water management technologies for potential international application.

The Water Institute builds upon aggressive steps recently taken by the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana Legislature to ensure a sustainable coast, including establishing a constitutionally protected trust fund for coast projects and forming the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, or CPRA. Moreover, the Legislature passed the Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast in 2012, a guiding document backed by top research for protecting the coast from flooding and erosion.

The Water Institute serves as a clearinghouse for innovative research and applied science and engineering projects. The nonprofit will build collaboration between public, private and academic partners to preserve and protect America’s unique Gulf Coast environment.

“There is no better laboratory in the world than what we have right here,” says Charles “Chip” Groat, founding president and CEO of the Water Institute of the Gulf. “We see this as an opportunity to form new engineering and science capabilities and advance the work in the field. It’s good for the state, and it’s good for science.”

Louisiana Economic Development estimates the state will experience as many as 40,000 direct and indirect jobs resulting from coastal restoration and water management.

Streams of funding from a variety of sources, including offshore drilling royalties and fines associated with the BP oil spill, provide some sustaining resources for coastal protection. These initial funds will help leverage additional research dollars and will attract top scientists and engineers to examine the Gulf’s unique conditions. Their body of work will cement Louisiana’s reputation worldwide as a leader in coastal research and economic development.

“We hope to be an agent as we expand our knowledge and export it to other communities in need of water management expertise,” Groat says.

BP fines are helping to establish other centers of excellence for coastal protection in states impacted by the spill, but Louisiana’s Water Institute of the Gulf will convene research on the state’s unique conditions, including a highly populated delta floodplain with global economic impact. The science, engineering, and technology gains achieved through Louisiana’s coastal protection efforts will be directly relevant to the deltaic and sea level challenges experienced globally.

Combined with the expertise of the Water Institute of the Gulf, Louisiana’s research universities and robust coastal industry, officials project Louisiana’s emerging leadership role across all water management sectors.

“If we can build our capabilities here, we can fundamentally change the world of water management,” says Groat.

1 "America's Gulf Coast: A Long-Term Recovery Plan After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill," written by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.