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Restoring the coast of Louisiana

One of the most important issues of our day - one that will have a lasting impact on state sovereignty and the legacy we leave future generations is now before the Louisiana Legislature. For the first time in history, the state is in a position to lead federal agencies and demonstrate its seriousness about turning back the tide of coastal erosion before it's too late.

The Legislature sent a strong message by unanimously approving the comprehensive Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Master Plan, which followed citizens passing, by an overwhelming 83 percent, three constitutional amendments to ensure that federal dollars were spent on restoring the coast.

Now it is imperative that the Legislature swiftly approve funding measures that will ultimately yield many times the investment. Their actions will literally set in motion coastal restoration we have been seeking for more than three decades.

The scope and complexity of the challenge facing the state to restore and manage our coastal areas is unprecedented. We must establish on the front end a capacity to develop engineering and scientific supported programs and projects covering four separate and distinct basins across the entire state. It is a wise investment to keep our funding here, with the state in charge of this process and ahead of our federal partners, rather than follow the lead of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which appears incapable of meeting or understanding the need for urgency as it applies to south Louisiana.

The question of urgency is paramount. In the first few years there will be an ongoing need to gear up for future activities the likes of which the state has never experienced. It is a prudent investment to begin now to spend the upfront money required to meet the obligations and demands that will be placed upon this state as subsequent annual plans are submitted for approval. It is also plain good business sense to do this.

The best way to send a strong message to Congress, as the federal government determines ways to distribute funds, is to show that we have the ability to lead and to provide the necessary match for our share of funding. The path we must take is as clear as the unanimous action the Legislature took to ready us for this important journey by approving the Master Plan.

We have come too far and worked too hard to put ourselves in a position where, but for the infusion of upfront funding sources, we cannot clearly establish the fact that this is our plan, developed to control our own destiny.

R. King Milling, chairman, America's WETLAND Foundation, New Orleans

The America's WETLAND Foundation manages the largest, most comprehensive public education campaign in Louisiana's history, raising public awareness of the impact of Louisiana's wetland loss on the state, nation and world. The America's Energy Coast initiative works to sustain the environmental and economic assets of the Gulf Coast region. The initiative is supported by a growing coalition of world, national and state conservation and environmental organizations and has drawn private support from businesses that see wetlands protection as a key to economic growth. For more information, visit www.americaswetland.com or www.futureofthegulfcoast.org.

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