The approval this afternoon of President Obama’s budget request to begin funding coastal Louisiana restoration construction projects by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development is “a down payment in what must be a long-term commitment to restoring and protecting coastal Louisiana,” according to five local and national conservation groups.
The Subcommittee’s approval of funding in the Fiscal Year 2011 spending bill is the first time Congress has taken a step towards paying for a major comprehensive program to restore coastal Louisiana wetlands. In February, President Obama became the first President to request funding for a new start construction program to restore coastal Louisiana wetlands.
“Initiating funding for these vitally important projects will help restore the massive, decades-long loss of Louisiana’s wetlands, making the wetlands stronger to rebound from the BP oil disaster,” said a joint statement by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society, and National Wildlife Federation. “Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Energy and Water Development Subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Subcommittee member Mary Landrieu (D-LA) — a long-time advocate of coastal restoration — deserve praise for backing President Obama’s pledge to leave coastal Louisiana in better shape than it was before the BP blowout. Congress must keep this provision in the final bill and then build on this initial step by committing a significant, long-term funding stream to a coastal Louisiana restoration program.”
The Senate subcommittee bill includes a total of $35.6 million for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers investment in Louisiana coastal restoration — $19 million to start construction of wetlands restoration projects, and $16.6 million to conduct wetlands pre-construction studies — as President Obama’s budget for FY 2011 requested. The President’s budget also included a $5 million request for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wetlands restoration work on the Gulf Coast; these funds will be considered separately in other legislation.
Since the 1930s, coastal Louisiana has lost over 2,300 square miles of wetlands, an area larger than the state of Delaware. There are two man-made reasons: the Mississippi River sediment that replenishes wetlands has been diverted out of the system to facilitate shipping and flood control, and dredging of canals for oil pipelines and equipment canals 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
“This funding is a first step in the long-term, multi-billion effort to protect and restore Coastal Louisiana,” the groups concluded. “We look forward to working with the Obama administration, Congress and Louisiana officials to save this American treasure.”
Source: Environmental Defense Fund, July 22, 2010;