It Took a Flyover to Gain Perspective

Vanishing Paradise Sportsmen Outreach Coordinator, Erin Brown, has lived in Louisiana her entire life, but a recent aerial tour left her in shock. 

by Erin Brown
Sportsmen Outreach Coordinator, Vanishing Paradise

I’ve lived in south Louisiana my entire life, but I’ve never had a view of it the way I did on a recent aerial tour of the coast. During my flyover with Southwings, we departed from Belle Chasse and embarked on a tour of St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes. Nothing puts the vulnerability of our coastal communities – including New Orleans – into perspective quite like seeing how near they are to the Gulf. One thing is certain: we need urgent action now to restore our Sportsman’s Paradise. 

Growing up hunting and fishing in the Mississippi River Delta, I’ve always known that we needed to do something to save our vanishing coast. There are several locations that I grew up fishing in Plaquemines Parish with my father that have disappeared in just my short lifetime. I have seen it wash away before my own eyes, but the aerial view of just how close the Gulf of Mexico is to my back door, was a real shock and awe moment. 

Particularly striking for me was what I saw in St. Bernard Parish, where I live. Chopped up marsh, unhealthy wetlands beaten and battered by several hurricanes over the years, providing little to no storm protection for our communities. It was shocking to say the least.

Next we flew over Mardi Gras Pass, an area along the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish where a natural break in the levee occurred back in 2011. Since then, when the river is high, sediment has been flowing and filling in the back marshes. Mardi Gras Pass exemplifies how a sediment diversion will harness the power of the river and help us build back and sustain some of coastal Louisiana. 

As we headed further south over the Fort St. Phillip area, we had a bird’s-eye view over a terracing project that has been trapping sediment and building land since 2006. The result is a rich and thriving habitat for thousands of migratory birds.

 Even though we are losing land at the rapid rate of a football field every 100 minutes, there is hope. The state’s Coastal Master Plan includes a suite of different restoration projects – many using the sediment of the river like the examples I saw on my flight – to build and sustain new wetlands.

I knew a lot about our coastal landscape and the need to restore our wetlands before my flight that day, but it turns out I needed to be a little higher up in the air to gain some perspective. 

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