There are solutions to restoring the values of the coast that science agrees must move foreward immediately. A comprehensive process is required, knowing that success must include both integrated ecosystem restoration and hurricane protection - often called "multiple lines of defense" which was the goal of Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast. AWF stresses the notion of "multiple lines of offense" - the urgent need for aggressive, large-scale pro-action to address the calamitous loss of land. And 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.
The state's Master Plan was approved on May 30, 2007, and reflects more than 18 months of research, stakeholder and scientific review and writing, which has guided all coastal restoration and hurricane protection efforts in Louisiana since then. The Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration is currently updating the Master Plan, required by law, with a new plan to be issued in 2012. Please visit coastal.louisiana.gov for more information.
Many significant obstacles to comprehensive coastal restoration remain, including dedicated funding, federal commitment and red tape. After years of grassroots and stakeholder interaction, the America's WETLAND Foundation outlines specific issues and identified solutions:
Dedicate funding for coastal restoration
The America's WETLAND Foundation supports the creation of dedicated funding streams for coastal restoration along the Gulf Coast, including:
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 benefits and impacts 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.)
There needs to be unprecedented urgency and scale of restoration and protection in this region. Without taking 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 seeks the commitment of Congress and the 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.
The Foundation calls 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.
Multiple Lines of Offense
Louisiana's coastal sustainability requires building "multiple lines of offense" that include reconnecting the Mississippi River with the wetlands through reintroduction of fresh water and sediments from the river into the upper basins, with possible re-engineering of the mouth of the river to achieve beneficial land building.
AWF believes the coastal program must proceed with transparency about realistic timelines and financing so that both commerce and communities can adapt to change.
Multiple lines of offense include: the beneficial use of dredged material immediately, the fortification of ridges and barrier islands, and long-term efforts such as river diversions. Incentives to provide greater community and private sector participation is immediately needed to stem the rising tide and coastal land loss.
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 over 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 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 offers 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 changing climate conditions 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 individual, private, and public sectors for recycling and reuse of carbon dioxide.
Establish a coastal restoration agency
The consequences of not having a focused mission in any funded agency that drives coastal priorities is leading to irrevocable degradation of the Gulf Coast with enormous economic, environmental and social consequences. The Foundation supports formation of a consolidated Federal coastal restoration entity to "restore the coastline of the United States of America" through a comprehensive approach that fast tracks restoration efforts and coordinated priorities across agencies.
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 which 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 that there is no net loss of culture as the reality of land loss and the threats of manmade and natural disasters continues to diminish the sustainability of historic cultures along this coast.
Intended utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust fund
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 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: