The federal government should do more to fast-track restoration projects on the Gulf Coast, where the ecosystem has been devastated by natural disasters and the 2010 BP oil spill, officials from the region said Wednesday.
"It's a fight for our coast. It's a fight for our culture," Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said at a press conference to announce a new report calling for faster action on Gulf Coast restoration efforts. "We need our federal government to step up the pace, and not just when a hurricane is barreling down our throat. This is not our coast to save alone."
The report, "Beyond Unintended Consequences: Adaptation for Gulf Coast Resiliency and Sustainability," was released by the America's WETLAND Foundation, a coastal advocacy group. It was compiled based on a series of community forums in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
The report's recommendations include tax credits or other incentives for landowners to restore fragile areas, creation of a plan to promote tourism in the region, and money for oyster reefs and other shoreline projects.
The Gulf region's fragile ecosystem has been battered by natural and manmade disasters, including hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the oil spill and, more recently, Hurricane Isaac.
Federal agencies "need to quit waiting to just respond to disasters to act," said Val Marmillion, managing director of the America's WETLAND Foundation.
"We have a deplorable situation that affects the entire United States," said Marmillion, who also owns the public relations firm that helped prepare the report. "We're not needing to wait for a next storm. We're in a constant storm."
Some Southern states already have crafted their own restoration plans. Earlier this year, Louisiana approved a 50-year coastal plan that calls for 109 hurricane protection, coastal restoration and other projects. Mississippi recently set up a task force to come up with restoration recommendations in the state.
"We could have simply continued to bury our heads in the sand of our beaches," said Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne of Louisiana. "Instead, we chose to make certain there's a high level of awareness and attention brought to the plight of America's energy coast."