The America’s WETLAND Foundation supports Louisiana’s coastal master planning process, including the state’s 2017 coastal master plan developed by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Some of the finest minds in science and engineering developed the plan and have been engaged in the planning process for more than a decade. Based on high performing projects that can deliver measurable benefits to our communities and coastal ecosystems over the coming decades, the plan shows that if these projects are fully funded at a price tag of more than $50 billion, the state could substantially increase flood protection for communities and create a sustainable coast.
The state’s first Comprehensive Master Plan for Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration was approved on May 30, 2007, and reflects almost two years of research, stakeholder and scientific review and writing. The master planning process has guided all coastal restoration and hurricane protection efforts in Louisiana since then. Mandated by law, the plan must be updated every seven years to include innovative technologies and techniques in restoration and to adapt to a dynamic coastal landscape that is impacted by sea level rise, storm events and manmade disasters.
The master plan incorporates solutions to restore the values of the coast that science agrees must move forward. The approach is comprehensive and is based on the knowledge that for maximum effectiveness, integrated design of ecosystem restoration and hurricane protection is necessary.
To see the 2017 Coastal Master Plan, please visit: coastal.la.gov/our-plan/2017-coastal-master-plan/
Louisiana’s coastal sustainability requires building “multiple lines of offense” that include reconnecting the Mississippi River with its delta through the reintroduction of fresh water and sediment from the river into the upper basins, with possible re-engineering of the mouth of the river to achieve beneficial land building. Other lines of offense include the beneficial use of dredged material and the fortification of ridges and barrier islands in addition to the long-term efforts like river diversions.
AWF stresses the urgent need for aggressive, large-scale actions to address the calamitous loss of land. In the rush toward more politically popular protection measures, restoration cannot be left behind or we will pay the price of wholesale ecosystem collapse, where other short-term and expensive measures will be sacrificed.
Significant obstacles to comprehensive coastal restoration remain, including a lack of adequate long-term funding and federal commitment and an overabundance of red tape. After many years of grassroots and stakeholder interaction, the America’s WETLAND Foundation outlines specific issues and identified solutions:
Dedicated Funding for Coastal Restoration
The America’s WETLAND Foundation supports the creation of dedicated funding streams for coastal restoration along the Gulf Coast, including:
- Accelerating the sharing of offshore revenues for coastal restoration as called for in the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). GOMESA funding has begun which shares offshore oil and gas revenues with Louisiana and other Gulf Coast producing states. The funds are constitutionally dedicated to coastal restoration and protection and provide the largest stream of revenue for the state’s efforts.
- Private sector funding of smaller, transitional projects that can abate erosion and saltwater intrusion and buy time as the larger state and local efforts come on line. Some companies doing business along Louisiana’s coast are moving into restoration partnerships with NGOs and parishes from a place of social responsibility and these transitional projects provide a practical pathway for them to participate in restoration that protects environmental and economic assets.
- Incentives to provide greater landowner, community and private sector participation are immediately needed to stem the rising tide and coastal land loss.
The America’s WETLAND Foundation is committed to engaging the private sector in meaningful coastal restoration, partnering with NGOs and communities on transitional projects that will hold back saltwater intrusion until larger parish and state projects can come online. These projects must be consistent with and even complement state and regional master plans, bolstering protection measures where appropriate.
To help encourage private sector participation, AWF is launching the Louisiana Coastal Exchange (LCX) an inventory and reporting of coastal restoration projects that have been completed or are planned and available for private funding. The Exchange will show the depth and breadth of restoration efforts beyond those sponsored by government agencies and will be a tangible demonstration of private sector support for restoration. It can serve as a tool for the state and NGOs to demonstrate the power of partnerships.
Resolution of Conflicting Federal Policies
The Federal processes in place to address the restoration and protection of this vulnerable coastline are fraught with conflicting agency missions and policies. The policies and regulations are expensive, cumbersome, slow and without regard to the unique nature of coastal landscapes and functions of this region that directly benefit and impact the rest of the nation. (Example: The average time is 30 years for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete a single large-scale river diversion project.)
The call for unprecedented urgency and scale of restoration and protection in this region is strong and steps have been taken to speed up the slow process of permitting for restoration projects but far more is needed. Without immediate action, the nation’s environmental, economic and energy sustainability is at risk. In an effort to address the urgency and actions required to achieve regional sustainability through policies, practices and technology that will address community resiliency, ecosystem restoration, commerce and infrastructure, climate stewardship and domestic energy security and development, AWF continues to seek the commitment of Congress and the present Administration to resolve conflicting Federal policies and to change Federal procedures that slow and often prevent the ability to restore, rehabilitate, protect and sustain this region.
Calling on agencies of the Gulf Coast states to help identify federal impediments, to act effectively and to design mechanisms for streamlining the process to sustain the region, AWF continues to work with its partners throughout the Gulf region in cooperation on these issues.
Building with Nature
The Foundation supports restoring the natural processes of the Mississippi River, the Atchafalaya River and Bayou Lafourche through the re-introduction of sediment and fresh water to the wetlands and the hydrological efforts needed to prevent accelerated land loss along the coast in the western part of the state. Similar to measures in the Netherlands where more than 800 years of engineering has led to conclusions that long-term restoration requires utilizing nature’s natural processes in tandem with compatible measures for restoration and protection.
Emergency Permitting for Restoration
The Foundation supports the development of an emergency or general rule that would expedite restoration projects meeting the priorities of approved coastal plans while preventing environmental degradation caused by lengthy delays and cost overruns associated with the current regulatory delays and impasses. Mitigation for environmentally beneficial projects also burdens the process and inhibits costly restoration in a timely manner.
Beneficial Use of Dredged Materials
The Foundation supports the beneficial use of dredged material to aid in environmental restoration. To that end, the Foundation supports the U.S Army Corps of Engineers’ Principles and Guidelines for Water Resources and calls for funding of the dredged materials from maintenance of shipping channels to be used to restore coastal wetlands. A cost-benefit analysis demonstrates the cost to the U.S. due to coastal land loss is much greater than the cost of beneficially utilizing dredged materials from our nation’s largest river and other Federally controlled waterways.
Beneficial use of Carbon
The restoration and avoided loss of coastal wetlands and habitats offer significant potential for the sequestration of carbon which could simultaneously restore ecosystem health while reducing greenhouse gases. In addition, coastal habitat restoration is a key strategy in adapting to climate change and helps to mitigate impacts. A tremendous potential exists for public/private partnerships to simultaneously restore our coasts while mitigating for greenhouse gas emissions. The Foundation supports the development of science protocols for the use of wetlands for carbon sequestration, as well as policy considerations for the beneficial use of carbon by the private and public sectors for recycling and reuse of carbon dioxide.
No Net loss of Culture
The Foundation urges recognition at all levels of government that cultures along this coastal region are at risk of being lost and that commitments must be made to ensure that policies and regulations developed to deal with land loss and the threat of natural disasters incorporate the principle of “no net loss of culture.” Further, the Foundation urges universities in the region to undertake research that will illustrate the impact of the loss of culture on communities, states and the nation, and that such findings identify suggested strategies that could be used to assure there is no net loss of culture as the reality of land loss and the threats of manmade and natural disasters continue to diminish the sustainability of historic cultures along this coast.
Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Used for Intended Purpose
America’s WETLAND Foundation supports that funds from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund be made available at the outset of each annual Congressional Budget Cycle for the US Army Corps of Engineers. AWF also urges Congress and the Administration to mandate this funding be used for its intended original purpose – the operation and maintenance of America’s ports and harbors and navigable waterways. AWF also urges the Corps to be authorized and funded to beneficially use dredged materials from these efforts.
Revised mitigation policies
Mitigation for environmentally beneficial projects is a major barrier to funding coastal restoration projects. The Foundation recommends the following:
- Review mitigation policies and eliminate mitigation for projects that increase coastal sustainability and restoration.
- Preserving healthy wetlands should earn private landowner mitigation credits rather than penalizing the act of private restoration. Private landowners need incentives to immediately restore their land consistent with Federal and state plans.
- Develop a sliding scale to lower or eliminate mitigation costs for restoration projects.
- Incentive programs should be created for landowners and industry willing to fund and build restoration projects.
- Programs for carbon sequestration, beneficial use of carbon and common carrier of carbon should be designed to encourage land building and increase private revenues through carbon credits dedicated to coastal restoration.
Educating the Adaptation Generation
Many, even most, of the new generations living along the Gulf Coast have never been through a major hurricane and are not aware of the tragic land loss that is happening in coastal Louisiana. There is a critical need for educating them that includes the concept of adaptation – preserving existing resources, building homes in a different way, taking individual actions to sustain communities, economies, and their environment to ensure their ability to truly be resilient into the future. It will be the responsibility of our colleges and universities, our grade schools and high schools to help educate the upcoming generations.
Key to this effort and in the broader sense of educating the public, it is imperative the coastal program proceeds with transparency about realistic timelines and financing so both commerce and communities can, indeed, adapt to change.