Funds to restore coast needed now

From the The (Lafayette) Advertiser

Congress must be awakened to the urgent need to repair Louisiana’s eroding coastline. There must be a powerful push for a larger share of the oil and gas revenue that our state sends to Washington.

While some of the money trickles back to coastal states now, the big money from Congress, $100 million a year, will be funneled back to the state no sooner than 2017. That amount will increase in the 40 years following 2017.

“We can’t wait,” said Senate President Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan.

If Congress continues at its present slow pace, Louisiana will face potential losses of oil and gas refineries that provide fuel for the nation, ports that service offshore oil and gas production, the seafood industry and the homes of millions of people.

Gustav and Ike offered undeniable evidence that our eroding coastline is no match for a hurricane.

Hurricane Gustav hit with Category 2 strength. It roared into central and north Louisiana with strong winds and heavy rains. Alexandria, in central Louisiana, far from the coastline, was flooded, and crops were ruined in northeast Louisiana.

Ike came close behind with more rain and wind damage. The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness points out that Ike, while targeting Galveston, triggered a surge that flooded 1,000 homes in Vermilion Parish alone. Communities in Plaquemines Parish and other eastern parishes flooded also.

Robert Twilly, a professor of Oceanography and Coastal Science at Louisiana State University, asked the key question: “How can a (Category) 2, all the way in Houston, throw water 25 miles north from the coast into Louisiana? When we become vulnerable to the (Category) 1’s and 2’s, that means we’re vulnerable because of the loss of (coastal) protection.”

Where Louisiana used to yawn at Category 2 storms and hunker down at homes near the coast, Twilly said, residents now are having to brave traffic in contraflows and return to flooded homes – or stay and risk drowning.

Ten years ago, $14 billion was the price set for restoring and protecting the wetlands. Val Marmillion, who is with America’s Wetland Foundation, says it is definitely more now.

The state not only needs a larger share of offshore royalties, it also needs it quickly. Prospects of revenue from other sources are poor with the federal government facing a possible $700 billion economic bailout.

Still, if we lose the battle to protect and restore the coastline, the effect will be felt nationwide. Gov. Bobby Jindal says he will continue to seek more of the royalty money and dedicate it to rebuilding the wetlands.

Jindal did not say when he would lobby Congress, but circumstances demand that he move quickly.