Findings Shared from Study on Economic Impact of Louisiana Land Loss

Stephen Barnes, R. King Milling (chair of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration, and Conservation and member of the RAND Gulf States Executive Advisory Committee), and Craig Bond.

Stephen Barnes, R. King Milling (chair of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration, and Conservation and member of the RAND Gulf States Executive Advisory Committee), and Craig Bond.

RAND's Craig Bond and co-author Stephen Barnes of Louisiana State University presented findings from their evaluation of the economic effects of coastal land loss [PDF] at the Governor's Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration, and Conservation meeting in New Orleans on December 2, 2015. Their new report, Economic Evaluation of Land Loss in Louisiana, is intended to guide coastal management decisions in the Gulf States region.

Sponsored by the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), the study examined the affect of structures, infrastructure, and economic activity in coastal areas that could become marshland or even open water in the future due to flooding. Because of the region's proximity to hurricane landfall, future storms can wreak significant damage to the area. According to the researchers, "We estimated that the value of economic infrastructure and activity at risk directly from land loss is approximately $8 billion to $11 billion." The study also considered the impact on the ecosystem services that the coastland provides, such as fishing and tourism. The findings will help CPRA better determine and allocate investments and strategies to address this future land loss.

The study made use of the Coastal Louisiana Risk Assessment Model (CLARA), an analytical model developed by RAND in 2012 to estimate flood depths and damage that occurs as a result of major storms. The researchers estimated the value of infrastructure and economic activity at risk from land loss and damage from storms by compiling multiple data sets on residential and commercial buildings, business activity, and network infrastructure.

"We recognized early in the project that coastal land loss in Louisiana would have two central but distinct effects," said Bond. "First, land loss directly affects structures, infrastructure, and economic activity that sit on land that could become marshland or open water in the future. Second, land loss changes how the coast serves as a buffer zone for hurricanes, meaning that future storms might do more damage to some areas than similar storms have in the same areas in the past. We needed to account for both of these changes." Taking into account land-loss projections and reduced protection from storms, the report warns that infrastructure losses from a severe storm could amount to as much as $133 billion—and up to $51 billion in lost economic output.

Read the Researcher Q&A with Nicholas Burger and Craig Bond