scales, and protects the key values and infrastructure. The Chenier Plain, for example, can never be restored to a previous state and sustain a large human population. Growth of the Atchafalaya River Delta will eventually bring mud to the west, changing the essential character of the coastal areas in the area (i.e., sandy beaches replaced by finer-grained, muddier systems). Some areas in Regions 2 and 3 (Figure 1.1) that are too far from sediment sources to be rebuilt may become the bays and open water of tomorrow so that new land can be built to protect preferred ecosystems and population centers elsewhere. Furthermore, erosion and coastal inundation by marine water represents an important phase of delta development when submerged coastal habitats may be at their peak in productivity. Most of the seaward areas of Region 1 (Figure 1.1) will apparently be abandoned since no land-building efforts are directed to the Chandeleur Islands or the wetlands landward of them. The selection of projects now, and in the future, should be viewed as an effort to balance specific mechanisms that will draw the new map of Louisiana and not efforts that will bring back the past.
The Mississippi River Delta has changed constantly throughout history but experienced net growth in land area until human activities inhibited delta-building processes. The extent of human activities and population growth in Louisiana has exacerbated land loss associated with natural processes and placed the current population and its infrastructure at risk from storms and land erosion. The natural and anthropogenic processes contributing to net land loss in coastal Louisiana are significant and pervasive and have been operating for decades. Furthermore, achieving no net loss may be problematic because of the limited sediment supply; the large affected area; and the extensive social, political, and economic impediments. It is not possible to restore the earlier extent of the delta or to maintain the present status of coastal Louisiana. However, through the selection of appropriate projects and with abandonment of areas that economically cannot be saved, a sustainable delta environment and management strategy can be achieved. Additionally, the LCA Study needs to convey the message that the map of Louisiana will change in the future. To achieve this, the development of an explicit map of the expected future landscape of coastal Louisiana should be a priority as the implementation of the LCA Study moves ahead. Such an explicit declaration of the proposed “end state” of restoration efforts in Louisiana provides an important performance metric. Development of such a map will also require meaningful stakeholder involvement and the commitment of decision makers at all levels of local, state, and federal government.