Author ORCID Identifier

Mcclenachan, Giovanna: 0000-0002-3076-4795

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We determined the number of permits for oil and gas activities in 14 coastal Louisiana parishes from 1900 to 2017, compared them to land loss on this coast, and estimated their restoration potential. A total of 76,247 oil and gas recovery wells were permitted, of which 35,163 (46%) were on land (as of 2010) and 27,483 of which are officially abandoned. There is a direct spatial and temporal relationship between the number of these permits and land loss, attributable to the above and belowground changes in hydrology resulting from the dredged material levees placed parallel to the canal (spoil banks). These hydrologic modifications cause various direct and indirect compromises to plants and soils resulting in wetland collapse. Although oil and gas recovery beneath southern Louisiana wetlands has dramatically declined since its peak in the early 1960s, it has left behind spoil banks with a total length sufficient to cross coastal Louisiana 79 times from east to west. Dragging down the remaining material in the spoil bank back into the canal is a successful restoration technique that is rarely applied in Louisiana, but could be a dramatically cost-effective and proven long-term strategy if political will prevails. The absence of a State or Federal backfilling program is a huge missed opportunity to: 1) conduct cost-effective restoration at a relatively low cost, and, 2) conduct systematic restoration monitoring and hypothesis testing that advances knowledge and improves the efficacy of future attempts. The price of backfilling all canals is about $335 million dollars, or 0.67% of the State's Master Plan for restoration and a pittance of the economic value gained from extracting the oil and gas beneath over the last 100 years.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Plos One