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Antwan Harris / Eyewitness News
Email: aharris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @antwanharris

NEWORLEANS-- Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost about 19,000 square miles of coastal wetlands, and the problem is only getting worse.

Louisiana has approximately 40 percent of the nation's wetlands but experiences 90 percent of the coastal wetland loss in the lower 48 states.

Experts say at the current rate, we will lose enough coastal land to fill the state of Rhode Island by 2050.

At a summit downtown New Orleans, state and parish leaders got together to bring more awareness to the problem.

'It is a very important summit to really look at the issues about restoration as we hear about protecting our coastal population,' said Tim Osborn with The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 'They are two very important assets and resources and we really have to do everything we can to protect and preserve.'

The group looked at the challenges facing the state and one is funding.

As the state builds the coastal protection system, water levels keep rising forcing the need for levee walls to increase.

It's costs more than $2 million to raise the levee just one foot, making it one of the most expensive projects the state will take on.

'It is frightening and that is one of the issues we are looking at now,' said PJ Hahn with Plaquemines Parish. 'We will never build levees high enough to protect the entire New Orleans area. We need to look outside that protection system and look at our coastal projects.'

Government officials have looked at several ways to protect our coastline, and much of that involves using the Mississippi River as a land-making device.

Part of the state's master plan would divert its water and sediment into coastal areas that are eroding and preserve much of the land.

But experts say the $50 billion restoration plan lacks funding.

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