The State of the Coast conference June 8 through June 10 at the River Center in Baton Rouge will have a whole new meaning next week as scientists, academics, state politicos and bureaucrats and others gather for three days of  sessions devoted to restoring Louisiana’s fragile and now more imperiled than ever coastline.

Sponsored by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, about 600 people are expected to attend what CRCL bills as an effort to “provide a forum to learn from recent advances in science and engineering as they relate to hurricane protection and ecosystem restoration in coastal Louisiana, to ensure that relevant and current knowledge is applied to existing and future coastal restoration and protection efforts, and to effectively inform policy and decision making.”

While that mission statement doesn’t mention is oil  — the conference was planned long before the April 21 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig. Dr. Donald Davis, a retired LSU geography professor who has studied the coast and its people for more than 40 years, says the spill will surely seep into the conference in a big way.

“Now, superimposed upon [the conference] is what some are calling our ‘coast in crisis,’” Davis says. “We certainly have to be aware that this oil spill has been catastrophic.”

To find out more about Washed Away: The Invisible Peoples of Louisiana’s Wetlands or to purchase a copy, log on to the UL Lafayette Press Web site. 

The author of the newly published Washed Away: The Invisible Peoples of Louisiana’s Wetlands, (UL Lafayette Press), will be one of many experts to attend the conference. His book — a historical, geographical and anthropological account of coastal Louisiana’s eco- and social systems and the complex interaction between the two — was going to press when the BP-leased rig exploded on April 21. The ensuing oil leak casts Davis research and book in a new light. “If the marsh goes under oil, how’s that going to affect the larvae?” Davis wonders. “What will that mean in 2011, 2014, 2020? Do we see a solution in one year? Does the science tell us?”

Next week’s conference will be an opportunity for some of the best thinkers in coastal preservation — engineers, geologists, geographers, biologists, hydrologists — to begin wrapping a collective mind around the crisis. Davis says that because of the unprecedented scope of the BP spill, more research is essential as we begin the long process of recovery after the well is finally capped. “We need more science,” he says. “It’s not like you can write a list and check it all off; we need much more science.”

To find out more about Washed Away: The Invisible Peoples of Louisiana’s Wetlands or to purchase a copy, log on to the UL Lafayette Press Web site.

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