BAY JIMMY, La. -- Charter fishing boat captain and marina owner Chad Daigle grew up maneuvering around the waters of coastal Louisiana, including the marshes that eventually lead into Bay Jimmy in Plaquemines Parish.
"Looking at the GPS as we're running through, you would think that we're running across solid land -- and we're running through 2 to 3 feet of water," Daigle noted.
It is a dramatic coastal erosion, which the National Wildlife Federation believes sped up in the last few years, in part because of storms and the BP oil spill.
"The evidence is subtle," said David Muth of the NWF's Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program. "At low tide, you can still see some oiled shoreline, you can still see some shorelines where you don't have full recovery of marsh grasses."
Marsh grasses are included in a new report from the NWF. It rates how the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem has fared in the three years since the oil spill.
Brown pelicans and shrimp get good marks, while deep sea coral and bottlenose dolphins are rated fair. Doing poorly, though, are Atlantic bluefin tuna, sea turtles and coastal wetlands.
Coastal erosion in Louisiana has been massive: nearly 2,000 square miles lost since the 1930s. Scientists say it is a big problem that will require a big solution. Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan lays out several ideas, including diversions from the Mississippi River. It would allow river sediment to flow back into the marshes to mimic how nature built up the coast.
"Whether we can create more land than is eroded every year is something that's going to be a challenge," said Alisha Renfro, a staff scientist with the NWF. "We're going to have to really, really put in a lot effort to even approach what we're losing."
The National Wildlife Federation said oil spill fines should help pay for some of the restoration projects, including diversions.
Their highest priority is the Mid-Barataria Diversion, which is currently being studied. It would be located just north of Myrtle Grove in Plaquemines Parish.