Sunday, October 25, 2009

Vulnerable spots in Louisiana

Jeremy Alford in the Daily Comet (Lafourche Parish, Louisiana): A new study on climate change says Terrebonne and Lafourche are among the most vulnerable, and best prepared, communities on the Gulf of Mexico coast. The vulnerability study, released earlier this week by Oxfam America, details “hotspots” across 13 southeast states where climate-related hazards exist.

The study, “Exposed: Social Vulnerability and Climate Change in the U.S. Southeast,” is the first of its kind to combine climate-change risks with social variables such as poverty, a process that Oxfam officials say identifies the people and places likely to be most impacted by climate change.

First, the bad news: 100 percent of the land in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes is in flood zones, according to the study. Ninety percent of Lafourche land and 81 percent Terrebonne land is susceptible to rising sea levels.

The good news: The study found that both parishes are mostly free from persistent poverty, unemployment isn’t a problem and the population is educated, meaning residents are socially prepared to respond and recover from a climate-related hazard.

The United Houma Nation, an American Indian tribe with members in Terrebonne and Lafourche, is used as a community case study in the study’s section on sea-level rise. … “For centuries, the Houma have fished the interlaced bayous and inlets of southeastern Louisiana, and today many members earn a living as small-scale commercial fishermen,” the study says. “Recently, though, rising costs and smaller catches have made it harder for them to eke out a decent income. As sea levels rise, salt water creeps in to freshwater areas, further jeopardizing their fishing grounds.”…

Bayou des Allemands and the town of Des Allemands, Louisiana, USA. The bayou is the boundary between St. Charles Parish (right) and Lafourche Parish (left). The three bridges crossing the bayou are (farthest to closest): A railroad bridge, Louisiana State Route 631, and U.S. Route 90. View is to the north. US Army Corps of Engineers

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