The America’s WETLAND Foundation's latest report urges lawmakers to pledge billions of dollars to Gulf Coast restoration.
Released today, “Beyond Unintended Consequences: Adaptation for Gulf Coast Resiliency and Sustainability" is the result of forums held in 11 Gulf Coast communities (including Lake Charles, Avery Island, Houma, Plaquemines Parish and New Orleans) in the last year. It gathered 1,100 "stakeholders" in environment, business, government and other agencies to make recommendations for rebuilding the coast. The report also based its recommendations on the findings of a $4.2 million study from Entergy.
The 30 recommendations outlined in the report are a "roadmap for adaptation and long-term sustainability, beginning with an urgent need for federal policy changes," it says. The report's opening letter co-signed by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and officials from Gulf Coast states reads, "We are pleased that this cooperative initiative has positioned the Gulf Coast to adapt to change. Resiliency is often talked about these days, but meaningful action is scarce, and the country cannot afford to wait."
Here are some of those recommendations: streamline and fast-track coastal restoration projects and their permit process, ensure all levels of government have policies in place to handle "at-risk coastal infrastructure," provide tax credits for restoration projects, support funding for oyster beds and other sensitive coastal habitats, create a "carbon market," and provide better support to communities (including increased tourism promotion and communication with officials).
The report also makes recommendations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: update its guidelines to address coastal restoration, maintain a sustained dredging budget for transporting dredged material for wetlands restoration, and revise the corps' valuation methodology so Gulf oil and gas ports are ranked by tonnage.
The report's release follows the difficult, long-winded approval process for a "RESTORE Act" which finally satisfied both sides of the aisle and was signed into law as part of a transportation bill earlier this year. It pledges to set aside 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines against BP and other responsible parties, somewhere between $5 and $20 billion, to Gulf Coast states — though the America's WETLAND report aims for a much higher sum to trickle down to the Gulf.