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Len Bahr on Louisiana Coastal Restoration: It will never happen.

Former cypress swamp destroyed by MRGO east of New Orleans

Len Bahr at lacoastpost.com, who knows way more than I will ever know about the workings of the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana coastal marshes, has an article about the future of coastal restoration.

He’s very pessimistic that the state and federal governments will ever get their acts together to come up with and pay for a workable program for restoring the Louisiana coast.

For twenty years, starting with the 1990 CWPPRA program under the Breaux Act, Louisiana has been writing and rewriting coastal restoration proposals. The 1998 Coast 2050 has a wealth of information about the marshes and came with a $14 billion price tag that made the Bush administration blanch and suggest that the state come up with something cheaper and focus on the most pressing projects. That plan, the LCA Study was published in 2004, came with a $2 billion price tag, with $800,000 for restoration and the rest for more studies. Congress authorized the study in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act, but never funded it.

After Katrina, Louisiana came up with another restoration program, a plan for a sustainable coast. That went no where.

Two years ago, as I was finishing up The Mississippi: A Visual Biography I spent days sorting the various programs that apply to Louisiana coastal restoration.

Now we come to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. On June 15 President Obama pledged to restore Louisiana’s coast and put Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy and a former governor of Mississippi, in charge.  The new price tag is $100 billion. Back then I wrote a post outlining the programs I stated above, saying that Louisiana knows what to do. According to Len Bahr, Louisiana has never been willing enough to be specific about what to do, because no one in Louisiana can agree to commit to what to do.

Watching the construction of Bobby Jindal’s ersatz barrier islands to stop the oil from seeping into the marshes, I came to the conclusion that Bobby Jindal and Louisiana are living in a fantasy land, and the new fantasy is that BP will fund a $100 billion coastal restoration program if the state can get its act together and write a comprehensive plan. That is the new price tag after years of no action on Coast 2050 and six years on the LCA Study, and after Katrina and Rita took out 219 square miles of marsh, and after BP oil destroyed who knows how much marsh.

Now there is an update of the post-Katrina sustainability program that will happen in 2012 that draws on all the old programs, which according to Len Bahr went no where because they were too vague about making a true commitment to coastal restoration.

Dying Cypress Swamp, Falgout, Terrebonne Basin


3 Responses

  1. “Pay for” is the key ingredient. We deal with the same thing up here on the Chesapeake. There are innumerable Chesapeake Bay “programs,” “initiatives,” and “plans” and no money to complete any of them.

    In fact, the president – this year – signed an Executive Order to protect & restore the Chesapeake Bay. It was attached to exactly zero dollars of funding.

    Jindal is insane if he thinks BP will write a check to the state of LA to restore the coast. Perhaps they’ll write such a check to NFWF, DU, or TNC. Never the state.

  2. Lovely sharp post. Never thought that it was this easy. Extolment to you!

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