The State of Louisiana€™s Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration has released a Master Plan for protecting and restoring the state€™s fragile and shrinking coastline. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has extensive coverage of the new coastal blueprint, starting with this January 12 story (€œ Louisiana coastal restoration 50-year blueprint released,€ by Mark Schleifstein). The draft plan itself, titled €œ Louisiana€™s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast,€ can be downloaded in hi-res and lo-res versions, or viewed in a Flash viewer, at the state€™s website. The plan€™s scope is ambitious, the Times-Picayune reports: €œThe state has lost 1,883 square miles of land during the past 80 years, an area three-quarters the size of Delaware, and authority Chairman Garret Graves said it is impossible to return the state€™s coastline to its 1930s condition. Even having a coastline in 2061 that resembles the current one might be impossible, he said. But if the projects outlined in the plan work, Louisiana would see more land gained than lost by 2042, with that gain averaging about 2.5 square miles a year by 2061. By then, the projects would have built 859 square miles of new land, although much of the gain will be offset by erosion elsewhere.€ The plan includes a number of extensive levee projects, some intended to protect against a 100-year storm event, and some aimed at protecting against a higher €œ500-year€ storm flood. Also included in the plan are major island and wetland restoration projects aimed at rebuilding lost land. This effort would involve dredging and depositing sand from the Gulf, as well as redirecting rivers to allow natural sediment flow into currently submerged areas. The plan has drawn support from many quarters. The editors of the Baton Rouge Advocate called the blueprint €œa step in the right direction€ (€œ Our Views: Get behind Louisiana coastal plan€). But public meetings revealed the diversity of opinions on the subject, the Huffington Post reported (€œ Views Collide At Meeting On Louisiana's Coastal Plan,€ by Susan Buchanan): €œA New Orleans open house held by Louisiana's coastal restoration authority last week on a draft of the state's 2012 Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast drew mixed, earnest and sometimes vehement comments. Those living near the Gulf, where homes and entire communities have washed away, worried that the plan doesn't kick in fast enough. Fisheries proponents warned that diverting Mississippi River water and sediment to build marsh will kill oysters, shrimp and trout. But for their part, national organizations concerned about the coast tend to favor the plan as a step in the right direction and one that will procure funds.€ Some ecologists are dubious about the whole concept of using man€™s engineering to mitigate changes driven by nature. The Associated Press reported one such critic€™s comment (€œ Bold plan proposed to save coastal Louisiana,€ by Cain Burdeau): €œEdward P. Richards is a science and public health law professor at Louisiana State University studying the state's coastal policies. He said any plan that proposes to save most of coastal Louisiana puts people in harm's way. The government encouraging people to continue living along the coast will result in new disasters when the next major hurricane strikes, he contends.€ Said Richards: "We have threats that are so politically unpalatable to deal with that we create mythologies to reassure the public that we are properly managing those threats. What should be seriously debated is whether there should be any levees built anywhere or whether we should let the coast naturally shrink and move inland." But the framers of the new plan apparently believe that their proposal could be improved by expanding it. €œThe budget we used for the plan, $50 billion, reflected existing and potential funding sources,€ they wrote, but they added: €œWith all the good this plan could achieve, we won€™t be able to completely compensate for the land loss that will occur over the next 50 years.€ Accordingly, the team sketched out a rough idea of what could be done with more money (see map below). €œOur analysis showed that additional funds would increase our ability to protect at risk communities and build coastal land,€ the report says. €œFor example, by 2061 a budget of $100 billion would allow us to achieve a net gain of up to 17 square miles of land per year; building between 934 and 1148 square miles of land.€