b'SURFACE WATERLocal initiative and ingenuity are protecting Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, from storm surges.Since 2007, $414 million has been invested on flood protection in region; locals have paid 57% of the tab.terreBonne parish, louisianaBanks and barriers are eroded by tidal surges, and got the name "good land" from French-speakingas gas and oil deposits are pumped out, the land is settlersFrench Canadians evicted by the British indropping an average of 9 millimeters per year. That 1755, and another wave of French citizens from is a lot to lose when the average elevation of the New Orleans fleeing the Spanish takeover parish is just six feet (1.82 meters) above sea level.of their city in 1762. Terrebonne Parish also sits at the top of a 90-mile-long, shallow coastal shelf, Kennedy notes. When The rich land was indeed good for growing sugarhurricanes spin up the Gulf of Mexico, the shelf cane and grazing cattle. But with 987 square miles (2,556 km 2 ) of land and 1,079 square miles (2,795builds storm energy into huge surges that slam into km 2 ) of lakes and waterways, Terrebonne Parish isthe parish and wash over the communities. actually more water than land. In years past, vegetated barrier islands absorbed "We have so many waterways, we\'re so inundatedpart of the blow and kept some of the water away with water, it\'s part of life," says Jason Kennedy,from the mainland. But those islands have been one of the founders of Delta Coast Consultants instarved of sediment for about 80 years, since the Terrebonne\'s largest city, Houma, Louisiana. "It\'sU.S. government channelized the Mississippi River to the reason people are here, come here, live here." prevent flooding, so they have shrunk dramatically. Now Terrebonne\'s fishing villages and parish seat of But all that water also poses a serious threat toHouma look storms directly in the eye.the 112,000 residents of the parish (Louisiana\'s"We have more effect from 25-knot south wind now counterpart to a county, a legacy of its origins as athan we ever hadtremendously high tidal events colony of France).because of normal frontal passages," Kennedy The threat is heightened by the steady loss ofnotes. "Ahead of a front, 30-knot southeast windselevation of the low-lying landscape. Sedimentsare almost like a little hurricane.that used to be deposited by the Mississippi River"It seems like the last 15 years, we\'ve had more to build the land are now shunted into the Gulf byextreme weather events than we ever had," he adds.a faster-moving, channelized river.That compounds the problem. Whos Minding the Planet? 7'