The TImes-Picayune - Revitalize Our Coast, Ensure Our Survival


By:  Steve Scalise
Date: July 21, 2012
Location: Unknown

It's a well-known fact that Louisiana loses a football field of land every hour and more than 16 miles of coastline a year. In all, Louisiana has lost enough land through coastal erosion to equal the entire state of Delaware.

Pelican eggs washed from nests float in pools on Cat Island West as the Plaquemines Parish Coastal Management Department gave tours of the rapidly shrinking island that is a rookery for several species of seabirds, including a large pelican population. The island has gone from 5 acres two years ago to less than one today. The department is planning a $3 million project to help restore the shrinking island. Shot on Wednesday, July 18, 2012.

Our state's economy, culture and heritage are deeply tied to our unique coast and the Mississippi River, but decades of severe erosion have left our coast tattered. This erosion has also removed the barrier that used to exist to protect us against violent storms in the Gulf.

Coastal erosion is a serious crisis, but fortunately the building blocks are finally in place to fund the critical restoration of our coast.

Just a few weeks ago, Congress passed and the president signed the Restore Act into law, directing 80 percent of BP Clean Water Act fines to Gulf Coast states.
Louisiana will benefit the most from the billions of dollars generated by this new law, and it's important that we don't squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reverse coastal erosion and build back our critical first line of defense against hurricanes.

Now that we have completed the heavy lift of passing the Restore Act, it's incumbent upon our state and local officials to ensure these funds are used wisely and responsibly to restore our coast and protect our families and communities throughout Southeast Louisiana.

The state of Louisiana has approved a robust master plan to rebuild our eroding coastline. If used properly, the Restore Act will provide the much-needed funding to jump-start that plan. Failing to properly implement the Restore Act will leave our state and our coast in a bind that will lead to more land lost and an incomprehensible missed opportunity to finally rebuild our wetlands.

We cannot accept the old way of doing things. After Hurricane Katrina, our citizens demanded that we rebuild better than before and that we do it in a way that provides accountability and transparency. Just as our citizens demanded reforms to our failed levee boards and other government institutions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we must follow that same model and rise to the challenge when restoring our coast.

Our coastal wetlands and marshes are vital to the future of our state. They are the first barrier against powerful hurricanes and serve to defend our state from oncoming storm surge.

They provide a nesting ground and habitat for countless species of native Louisiana wildlife. They guard and protect the massive energy infrastructure that brings oil from the Gulf onshore to be refined and powers America, while also pumping billions into our economy.

The wetlands are the essential ingredient in the recipe that makes Louisiana the one and only sportsman's paradise, an industry that draws thousands of hunters and anglers to our state and pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into our local economy as they buy licenses and supplies, rent hotel rooms and hire guides.

We cannot survive without our coastal wetlands and marshes. When the BP Clean Water Act fines are determined and allocated to our great state, it is incumbent upon us to stand together and demand that our coastal areas are rebuilt wisely and responsibly.

Our wetlands and marshes bore the brunt of the BP spill. The Restore Act provides a much needed lifeline to our coast, and that is why we must be vigilant in ensuring that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is maximized to reverse the decades of erosion and restore our vanishing coast.

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