America’s WETLAND Foundation Chair R. King Milling’s statement praising the release today of strategies by the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf Coast Ecosystem Task Force:
“We need to commend Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, and John Hankinson, executive director of the Task Force, for the amount of time they spent in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, which is an indication of their commitment to get it right in addressing key restoration needs. This task force has done good work. For the first time we have a comprehensive look at our coast as an ecosystem. Although frustrating at times because of the severity of our problem and the slow pace to act, we must see this as a promising sign of commitment from the Administration. Our job is to make sure that the many good findings turn immediately into action.
“We have been through numerous federal administrations where making the case for the restoration of valuable wetlands in Louisiana has been all but ignored. Through the efforts of many, Gulf Coast deterioration is now a national concern, where agendas are forming to bring solutions to a crisis situation. Dramatic land loss threatens a working coast that supports our nation’s economy, energy security, maritime and fisheries trades, animal and marine habitat and communities representing over 7 million people.
“Our message has been a sobering one that we cannot afford to lose this region and all that it provides the nation. We are on the brink of a disaster, as coastal erosion takes the equivalent of a football field of land every hour out of commission as an environmental and economic asset and hedge against more substantial storm and tidal events with increased sea level rise.
“We hope to put some meat on the bones of this report during the comment period by using findings and recommendations from 10 resiliency meetings in five states to suggest specific strategies that can hasten coastal restoration. We have to take a look at why a state or local government has to mitigate for environmental restoration projects. We need an emergency rule for speeding up the process of restoration in general to expedite permits for environmental projects.
“We must secure a commitment for beneficial use of dredge materials that now flow inside levees of the Mississippi River and are lost to the deep Gulf. We can no longer allow the federal government to hold monies dedicated to keeping our maritime routes like the Intracoastal Waterway viable. Billions of dollars in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund go unspent annually while the need is critical. And, we cannot be the generation who stands by while historic cultures are lost and one of America’s natural treasures like America’s WETLAND, home to rare and endangered species, simply disappears.”
The America’s WETLAND Foundation has worked closely with Task force chairman John Hankinson and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to raise concerns of communities affected by coastal deterioration through a series of Blue Ribbon Resilient Community leadership forums in the four state energy-producing region dubbed America’s Energy Coast, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Much of the Foundation’s work with the Task Force in the past year has been to elevate examples of how conflicting federal policy has made restoration cost prohibitive. From start to finish, a project can take upwards to thirty years and cannot keep pace with erosion and land loss. The maze of regulations by various agencies tied to sporadic administrative changes in rules causes, not only delays, but uncertainties that confront state and local officials.