A History of Conservation
Born and raised in Houma, along the great Mississippi River Delta and marshes, Arlen Benny Cenac Jr. remembers sitting by the Intercoastal Waterway as a young child, watching vessels of all sizes navigate their way through the Houma Canal.
Working along Louisiana’s great shores and waterways, he became aware of the importance of protecting the environment. As a student at Nicholls State University, Benny Cenac grasped that, just like his father and grandfather, he wanted a career that would allow him to spend his days outside on the rich, fertile land that is Louisiana.
Now owner of Cenac Marine Services and Golden Ranch Farms, Arlen Benny Cenac, Jr. is fortunate to still spend his days outside on the beautiful canals of Louisiana. However, like many of his fellow Louisianans, he understands that it is important to protect Louisiana’s great wetlands and waterways from the growing dangers coastal erosion could pose. Arlen Benny Cenac Jr. is spearheading certain community efforts to ensure that the beautiful lands are conserved and remain immaculate and sustainable as they have been for over 200 years.
An Urgent Problem
According to a recent study by the U.S. Coast Guard, Louisiana’s barrier islands are eroding at a rate of up to 20 meters per year. Unfortunately, several of these protective land masses will disappear by the end of the century. As these islands disintegrate, the once-sheltered wetlands across Louisiana’s delta plains are exposed to the full force of open marine processes including salinity intrusion, storm surge, and tidal currents, all of which accelerate coastal erosion. The loss of these lands, combined with the result of rising sea levels, continue to threaten the environment and the economic stability of this great state.
More concerning, a study by a team of Tulane University geologists found that Louisiana’s coastline is sinking into the ocean 50% faster than was estimated two years ago. This rate is even faster along the Mississippi River south of New Orleans.
As Louisiana’s shoreline continues to deteriorate, 995,000 people are currently at risk due to coastal flooding. This number will increase by more than 25% by 2050 if Louisianans do not take the necessary steps to protect our great coast for generations to come.
If these trends continue, the ecosystems and communities surrounding the shores and the Mississippi River will be greatly impacted, as economic activity along the river directly supports 1.5 million jobs and generates approximately $496 billion in revenue for the U.S. economy.
Stopping Coastal Erosion
As the soil becomes drier, rainfall increases and sea levels rise, threatening the economic stability of those who live off the lands. The wetlands that flow through the great state continue to dry up, putting shrimp, oyster, crab, crawfish and other fisheries at risk, and a great portion of Louisiana’s gross domestic product.
“Seeing first-hand the impact that coastal erosion has had on my state has motivated me to take a more proactive role in protecting the environment of our great state. On my own ranch, I have constructed a series of flood control structures to prevent saltwater intrusion to protect the marsh and have donated thousands to organizations working to combat the unfortunate results of climate change,” Benny Cenac said.
From donating a spud barge to transport various and necessary equipment required for levee conservation and upkeep to donating thousands to conservation efforts, Arlen Benny Cenac Jr. has spent much of his time and money working to ensure Louisiana’s maritime industry and environment is not impacted by the results of coastal erosion.