Miss. State survey reveals interest in coastal restoration

By The Associated Press

HOUMA, La. — A new survey Mississippi State University finds more than 60 percent of Americans are willing to pay to restore Louisiana’s rapidly eroding Barataria-Terrebonne estuary.

The Courier reports (http://bit.ly/ZPrAly ) the survey found that respondents were willing to pay between $909 and $1,751 per household for coastal restoration projects. Added up, that could generate between $105 billion and $201 billion for the Louisiana coast, more than the state’s $50 billion master plan for coastal restoration.

The study was designed to estimate American’s willingness to pay for large-scale restoration projects in the Barataria-Terrebonne estuary, one of the fastest-disappearing land masses in the world.

The estuary, which includes Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, is made up of more than 4.2 million acres of wetlands, ridges, forests, farmlands and communities between the Mississippi and Atchafalaya river basins in southeast Louisiana. The estuary is also home to more than 500,000 people and provides habitat for 735 species of birds, fish, shellfish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.

Daniel Petrolia, Mississippi State University environmental economist, said he was inspired by the America’s Wetland campaign to conduct the survey. That campaign was launched a decade ago to attempt to rebrand Louisiana’s coastal erosion probably as an issue of national importance.

Petrolia, an associate professor in agricultural economics and Louisiana native, said the survey set out to answer two questions. How much money are households willing to pay to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands? Also, what services provided by the coastal wetlands drive the willingness to pay?

Petrolia worked on the survey with Matt Interis, Mississippi State assistant professor in agricultural economics.

“The survey format used in this study is quite complex but extremely important as it measures people’s preferences,” Interis said. “The survey is designed so that people understand how vital their inclinations truly are in this situation since the wetlands affect their fellow citizens.”

Finding out how much people are willing to spend reflects how much they value the benefits provided by environmental restoration projects. This figure is then compared to the cost of the project to determine if the project is worth executing.