‘Founding father’ of Louisiana coastal program dies at 84

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A geologist, geographer and archaeologist who devoted his life to studying Louisiana’s rapidly eroding coastline and helping the state develop a restoration plan, has died.

Dr. Sherwood M. “Woody” Gagliano died Friday at the age of 84, news outlets reported.

“Dr. Gagliano was truly one of the founding fathers of Louisiana’s coastal program and his work marked a turning point on how we approach the problem both informed by science and in terms of scale,” The Times-Picayune/News Orleans Advocate quoted Bren Haase, executive director of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, as saying.

In 1970, the scientist completed research that showed Louisiana had lost, and was continuing to lose, a considerable portion of its wetlands, the news outlet said. He also discovered that erosion was being intensified by canals constructed by the oil industry, among other findings, and came up with an idea that would help ease some of the effects.

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“He was the Paul Revere figure in proclaiming the extent and rates of loss in the early days, raising awareness of the problem more than anyone else at that time,” said Charles “Chip” Groat, former director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

In 1998, Gagliano helped state officials outline steps towards restoring wetlands and helped create the first formal plan for saving them in 2007 following Hurricane Katrina, The Times-Picayune/News Orleans Advocate said.

He also documented how the underlying effects of wetland loss could threaten levees and how those losses contributed to the devastating flooding during Hurricane Katrina.

Gagliano earned a bachelor’s degree in geography and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in physical geography from Louisiana State University. Gagliano founded Coastal Environments and was the founding president of the Louisiana Archaeological Society. He received a number of awards for his efforts documenting Louisiana’s ongoing battle against coastal erosion.

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