"Left to Louisiana’s Tides, a Village Fights for Time"

"For the community of Jean Lafitte, the question is less whether it will succumb to the sea than when — and how much the public should invest in artificially extending its life."

"JEAN LAFITTE, La. — From a Cessna flying 4,000 feet above Louisiana’s coast, what strikes you first is how much is already lost. Northward from the Gulf, slivers of barrier island give way to the open water of Barataria Bay as it billows toward an inevitable merger with Little Lake, its name now a lie. Ever-widening bayous course through what were once dense wetlands, and a cross-stitch of oil field canals stamp the marsh like Chinese characters.

Saltwater intrusion, the result of subsidence, sea-level rise and erosion, has killed off the live oaks and bald cypress. Stands of roseau cane and native grasses have been reduced to brown pulp by feral hogs, orange-fanged nutria and a voracious aphid-like invader from Asia. A relentless succession of hurricanes and tropical storms — three last season alone — has accelerated the decay. In all, more than 2,000 square miles, an expanse larger than the state of Delaware, have disappeared since 1932.

Out toward the horizon, a fishing village appears on a fingerling of land, tenuously gripping the banks of a bending bayou. It sits defenseless, all but surrounded by encroaching basins of water. Just two miles north is the jagged tip of a fortresslike levee, a primary line of defense for greater New Orleans, whose skyline looms in the distance. Everything south of that 14-foot wall of demarcation, including the gritty little town of Jean Lafitte, has effectively been left to the tides."

Kevin Sack and John Schwartz report for the New York Times February 24, 2018, with photographs by William Widmer -- in partnership with Mark Schleifstein and Tristan Baurick    of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.


Part 2: "Fortified but Still in Peril, New Orleans Braces for Its Future" (NY Times/NOLA.com)

Part 3: "Insects Feast on Louisiana Wetlands, Inviting the Gulf In" (NY Times/NOLA.com)

Source: NY Times / NOLA.com, 02/26/2018