Groups Urge Congress to Adopt Obama’s Proposal to Fund Louisiana Wetlands Restoration

Conservation groups today urged the U.S. House Appropriations Committee to pass President Obama’s budget proposal to begin funding Coastal Louisiana restoration projects when it marks up the spending bill for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other public agencies for Fiscal Year 2011. Last week, the House Energy & Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee did not include the President’s proposal in its version of the bill.

“Congress authorized these projects even before the BP oil disaster. The need now is even more urgent since oil continues to coat wetlands and beaches, and poison birds, marine life and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico,” said a joint statement the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society, and National Wildlife Federation. “Congress must reverse the decades-long collapse of this ecosystem, which the oil spill has worsened. It’s the only way to stop the economic pain of every American who depends on a healthy Gulf Coast for their livelihood.”

President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget released in February—before the BP oil catastrophe—requested $19 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to fund construction of Coastal Louisiana restoration projects authorized in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). WRDA laid out the first steps toward systemic, science-based solutions to restore the severely degraded Mississippi River Delta ecosystem. Since the 1930s, coastal Louisiana has lost more than 2,300 square miles of wetlands, an area larger than the state of Delaware. There are two reasons: the Mississippi River sediment that replenishes wetlands has been diverted out of the system to facilitate shipping, while the dredging of canals for oil pipelines and wells also has weakened the wetlands.

The decline of the Mississippi River Delta wetlands—which has dramatically impaired protection from hurricanes and wiped out much of the buffer against oil spills and other disasters—threatens:

* One of our nation’s most important fisheries

* One of our nation’s most significant port complexes and navigation systems

* Wildlife, including tens of millions of migratory birds and waterfowl

* Domestic energy production and processing

* Communities all along the central Gulf Coast

“The scientific and public policy communities are in agreement,” the five conservation groups concluded. “Funding the president’s budget request would not only begin to heal a region that has been hurting for decades, but would now be a real and tangible way to begin long-term recovery from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. Now more than ever, it is critical that Congress include these funds as the legislative process proceeds. We urge the House Appropriations Committee to take the first step toward renewing what has been and must remain such a vibrant and vital part of America.”

[mappress]

Source: Environmental Defense Fund, July 20, 2010

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