Louisiana's beleaguered wetlands soon may receive initial assistance in the form of two amendments - offered by U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and David Vitter (R-La.), and agreed to by U.S. Senate appropriations chairman Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) - that the Senate voted last night to attach to the Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act of 2010.
The first amendment would expedite the distribution of previously appropriated coastal restoration funding to provide emergency mitigation of damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The second amendment would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use dredged material from waterways in the Gulf Coast beneficially to mitigate the impacts of the oil disaster by bolstering barrier islands and restoring wetlands.
"We applaud the Senate for including these vital measures in the Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act," said a joint statement by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation. "The largest oil disaster in our nation's history is another blow to an ecological system already in cardiac arrest. That's why BP, Congress and the Obama administration must take decisive action to mitigate damage, halt the decline and set the stage for long-term recovery in the wake of this latest crisis."
"The good news is that the Mississippi River can restore life to Louisiana's dying coastal wetlands," the groups added. "It has the power - over time - to heal the ugly wounds that the oil disaster is gouging. These measures by Sen. Landrieu and similar ones by others are critical steps in releasing the river's life-giving power from the shackles constraining it today. Sediment dredged from waterways, which now is largely wasted, can be used to create marsh quickly in the short term and may help stop oil from infiltrating some places."
"As the oil disaster continues to unfold, it becomes more important than ever to restore function and health to the Mississippi River Delta," the groups concluded. "This irreplaceable delta sustains globally important wildlife populations, diverse human communities and cultures, and nationally important economic resources. We look forward to continuing to work with the Congress on additional measures to fund an implement coastal restoration and BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster response."