March 2016 Newsletter

AMERICA’S WETLAND FOUNDATION SAYS RAIDING COASTAL FUNDS WILL JEOPARDIZE ENTIRE STATE ECONOMY
From loss of habitat to vanishing cover for a complex web of pipelines and navigation routes that fuel America and support the largest job sector in the state, any tinkering with dedicated funding for saving Louisiana’s coast will have long lasting consequences, the America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) warns. The worry is over bills introduced into the legislative session that would turn back hard won gains for the state to secure money to restore its coast.

“Anyone who thinks this issue only affects a part of the state should think again,” King Milling, AWF chairman, said. “Consider a gradual loss of jobs commensurate with loss of wetlands tied to energy, transportation, shipping, seafood, and those who supply these industries, and the tip of the iceberg becomes obvious. Take away funding for coastal restoration and we all lose in a big way.”

Of concern are a number of bills that would take money from dedicated funds to restore the coast. Often used to match federal dollars and assure continuity of the coastal program across years, Louisiana has seen a gradual increase in dollars to build large scale restoration and protection projects. Coastal leaders fear that sending the message that monies put in trust for a specific coastal purpose can be raided will support concerns in Washington, DC, that Louisiana is not a sound investment.

“We can ill afford to bankrupt Louisiana’s future and destroy the positive work that has been accomplished to create a coastal master plan,” Sidney Coffee, former coastal chief and AWF senior advisor, said. “And, you can be assured that Washington is watching. Any crack in the state’s resolve to dedicate coastal funds to their intended purpose will open the way for those in DC already skeptical of the state’s commitment. The federal government is looking for ways to take away promised oil and gas revenue sharing dollars before they ever begin flowing to Louisiana.”

Projects to restore the coast are embedded in a twice-revised master plan that prioritizes projected funds to be spent. Years of planning and development of revenue streams are allowing Louisiana to embark on strategies of the largest scale ever approached by a state or the federal government. Projects in the past, due to the lack of funding, have been patchwork approaches to turn back land loss before more comprehensive projects can be built to match the size of the problem.

“Go down to low lying areas of Louisiana and you will see communities challenged to keep their roads above water during high tides,” Val Marmillion, AWF managing director, said. “We need to level with the people of the state and let them prepare for the rising tide and the likelihood of storm events that will require a shift of populations inland. We cannot deny the facts; we can only adapt to a new reality by ensuring dedicated funds stay that way for projects critical to our future.”

GROUPS CALL ON PRESIDENT OBAMA TO PROTECT OFFSHORE REVENUE SHARING FOR COASTAL RESTORATION
An AWF February 11, 2016 release called on the Federal Administration to maintain critical funds for coastal restoration and the Foundation again took action by joining a coalition of 330 organizations in signing a letter sent to President Barack Obama, urging him to reconsider his 2017 proposed budget that redirects funds from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) away from Gulf Coast restoration. The letter explained the move would weaken Louisiana’s ability to address its land loss crisis for the benefit of the region and the country.

The letter stated:

You have demonstrated a long-standing commitment to Louisiana’s ongoing recovery and its importance to the nation,” the groups stated in the letter. “We believe your proposal to redistribute GOMESA dollars is inconsistent with that very worthy commitment, and we were disappointed to see it again as a part of the budget discussion this year.” The letter continues, “The restoration of coastal Louisiana’s wetlands is one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) will soon provide the only consistent source of federal funds to continue its implementation.

HOUMA COURIER: WETLAND GROUP OPPOSES EFFORTS TO ‘RAID’ LA. COASTAL MONEY
Wetlands advocates today (March 18) expressed concern about state lawmakers’ proposals to redirect money from rebuilding Louisiana’s vanishing coast to solving the state’s budget problems.

Bills introduced for the legislative session that started Monday would turn back hard-won gains for the state to secure money to restore its coast, the America’s Wetland Foundation said.

“Anyone who thinks this issue only affects a part of the state should think again,” King Milling, the group’s chairman, said in a news release. “Consider a gradual loss of jobs commensurate with loss of wetlands tied to energy, transportation, shipping, seafood and those who supply these industries, and the tip of the iceberg becomes obvious. Take away funding for coastal restoration and we all lose in a big way.”

State administrators told the state’s coastal oversight board earlier this week that at least seven bills in the legislative session would trim, eliminate or redirect oil revenue now dedicated by law to bolstering the state’s coastal wetlands.

WASHINGTON IS WATCHING, BUT IS LOUISIANA?
Wetlands advocates are sounding a familiar alarm: Somebody is trying to raid money set aside to help prevent coastal Louisiana from becoming the next Atlantis.

This time, it’s members of the Legislature, who want to use the money to deal with recurring state budget problems.

Word of the latest threat came Wednesday during a meeting of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the board that oversees efforts to deal with the rising seas, sinking land, hurricanes and eroding wetlands that threaten to wipe out coastal communities like Terrebonne and Lafourche.

Chip Kline, a representative of the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, told the board that at least seven bills would strip, eliminate or otherwise threaten mineral revenue that sends an average of about $25 million a year to the coastal efforts.

COASTAL ADVOCATES UNITE AT STATE LEGISLATURE TO SUPPORT RESTORATION AND PROTECTION EFFORTS
AWF will participate in Coastal Day at the State Legislature on April 4, 2016, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. AWF Senior Advisor Sidney Coffee will make a presentation during the morning discussion with legislators on coastal issues and the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities and representatives of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

AWF will have a booth along with other non-governmental and environmental organizations in the capitol, promoting their work with the public, distributing foundation literature and enlisting memberships. One of the Foundation mascots, the Estuarians, will be on hand to show how restoring Louisiana’s coast impacts marine life and wildlife that rely on the coast.

‘MAKING RESTORATION INVESTABLE’ A TALKING POINT IN AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER
In the most recent volume of the American Bar Association’s Public Lands Committee newsletter, Adam Davis, partner at Ecosystem Partners, wrote an article entitled, “Making Ecological Restoration Investable: Policy Solutions to Align Incentives.”

Davis discusses how mitigation can provide legitimate compliance with laws that require compensatory action and has the potential to address a wider range of environmental problems and align interests of investors with the public good. The Clean Water Act mitigation banking program has enabled the restoration and permanent protection of 883,000 acres of wetlands and streams by harnessing private investment on private lands. He explains how we can build on The Clean Water Act mitigation banking program.

Davis cites the recent Presidential Memorandum on Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment as a step forward in encouraging federal agencies to apply the goals and mandates listed within the Memorandum.

To see the American Bar Association’s Public Land and Resources Committee newsletter and details for making ecological restoration investable, click here.

COLORADO UNIVERSITY: WORLD’S LARGE RIVER DELTAS CONTINUE TO DEGRADE FROM HUMAN ACTIVITY
From the Yellow River in China to the Mississippi River in Louisiana, researchers are racing to better understand and mitigate the degradation of some of the world’s most important river deltas, according to a University of Colorado Boulder faculty member.

CU-Boulder Professor James Syvitski said more than two-thirds of the the world’s 33 major deltas are sinking and the vast majority of those have experienced flooding in recent years, primarily a result of human activity. Some 500 million people live on river deltas around the world, a number that continues to climb as the population increases.

“These deltas are starved of the sediments they need for stability because of upstream dams that trap the material,” said Syvitski, a professor in geological sciences who also is executive director of the international Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS), which is based in Boulder. “We are seeing coastal erosion increasing in many places across the planet.”

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