Washington’s ‘roadmap’ lacks a clear pathway

Sure, it was yet another report in a decades-long litany of plans and proposals and reports on the loss of land along the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The recent document was, in its own way, like none of the other thousands, if not millions, of pages that have been produced on the issue of coastal erosion.

This one didn’t come from the scientists or the states or some obscure federal agency. This one came from the White House and gave hope to those who have spent in some cases their lifetimes fighting for a solution.

R. King Milling, chairman of the America’s WETLAND Foundation is among that group of fighters. When the White House Council on Environmental Quality laid out its “roadmap” to deal with the catastrophic loss of our coast, Milling expressed what so many were feeling – a sense of gratitude mixed with cautious optimism. Caution being a key part of that phrase in this case. …

Louisiana’s wetlands are being destroyed and with them an ecological system and a way of life. Even more importantly, a crucial and literal pipeline connecting the nation to a major part of its energy supply is at real risk.

As The Associated Press reported, “since the 1930s, the Mississippi River delta has been slowly falling apart and eroding due to levee construction, oil drilling, hurricane damage and other factors. Louisiana has lost about 2,100 square miles of coast and loses about 25 square miles a year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.”

The White House’s roadmap for the first time put the weight of the president’s office behind an effort that has sputtered for years.

“Unless we stem the rapid rate of ecosystem loss in the region, the ecosystems and the services they provide will collapse,” the document said. At risk, the paper said, was “not only the economies of Louisiana and Mississippi, but also the economy of the nation as a whole.”

As part of the plan, the Obama administration said it will work over the next 18 months with state officials to develop a long-term proposal to pay for the multi-billion dollar restoration project, one of the largest ever undertaken.

“It’s a terrifically important document if it’s followed through on,” said Mark Davis, the director of the Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy at Tulane University. “There are legal and budgetary boundaries that this framework acknowledges, but I don’t see a clear path forward. It’s a commitment to seek results, not a commitment to achieve results.”

Wanting it is not enough. Now is the time for results.

– The Daily World, Opelousas, La.