Coastal Erosion Requires Immediate Attention
Louisiana's Governor says “we are in a race against time.”
Claiming that time has run out for repairing our eroding coast and that we are ready and must start, Louisiana's Governor John Bel Edwards challenged coastal leaders to restore 20,000 acres of wetlands by 2020. The Governor opened the second of two leadership roundtables recently held in Baton Rouge hosted by the America's WETLAND Foundation (AWF) and the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), with a focus on financing the State's master plan for coastal restoration and protection.
Introduced by former Governor Kathleen Blanco as the new and highly capable State's steward of our coast, Governor Edwards encouraged coastal leaders to think creatively. "We have monies to get started but we need new ways of funding to get the job done."
"We all know some will ask why spend the money in the first place if the coast is in so much trouble?" Governor Edwards said, "The answer is because we have communities there now and industries and cultural resources, and I am open to creative solutions. We all have to be."
The governor went on to say he has been intent on protecting the money the state does have now. "I ended the practice of using the Coastal Trust Fund as a pass through to free up one-time dollars for the state's budget and we successfully worked through a number of bills during the regular session that took aim at the statutorily dedicated mineral revenues of the coastal program," the governor said. "I look forward to the summit on December 7 that will focus on some of the creative ideas for funding and implementing our restoration program that have been discussed during the past two days."
King Milling, AWF chairman, said, "We must find financial products, innovation, and new policies that will make valuing our ecosystem worth the price."
Speaker Pro-Tempore of the Louisiana House of Representatives, Walt Leger, said, "While I understand that mitigation means we have to disrupt something to gain funding, the ability to pool mitigation funds now is a good start at creating a positive cash flow for ecosystem services. We have to provide incentives for scaling up private participation in restoration because we have very little time to waste."
CPRA and AWF joined forces for the two-day series of discussions on finding common ground, adapting on the path to implementation, and moving past barriers to find success on important issues like fresh water and sediment diversions and the future of coastal communities as the plan becomes a reality in efforts to stem the rising tide.
Governor Blanco noted that sitting in the governor's seat, your primary concern is to act in the best interest of all of the people of the state. "While Governor Edwards has the benefit of more than a decade of master plan preparation, implementing and paying for restoration raises the stakes considerably," she said.
Adam Davis of Ecosystem Investment Partners, which establishes venture capital projects to attract private capital, noted that a restoration industry has emerged and exists today with 2,000 mitigation banks, which have restored thousands of acres through ecological restoration.
Elliott Bouillion, President of Resource Environmental Solutions, suggested that the CPRA come up with a carve-out of projects for attracting private investment capital. He noted that the market is emerging and will be the new way for restoring valuable ecosystems in the future.
Tulane's Mark Davis suggested that the numbers of people dealing with saving coastal resources from destruction is scaling up. "We need to put ourselves in the context of a broader discussion about national security," Davis said, noting that the endangered natural and economic resources are essential to America's financial future.
Johnny Bradberry, CPRA chairman, closed the meeting noting that he has taken plans to immediately implement some of the recommendations from the two-day sessions, including:
- Determining if a declaration of emergency is possible for Louisiana in light of dramatic land loss and consequences;
- Assessing new options to raise funds by carving out a demonstration project for private financing and reviewing the procurement process;
- Adjusting his organization to fit with the new master plan strategies and priorities;
- Establishing rationales for a 2017 legislative agenda;
- Citing lessons learned, better project design and implementation;
- Building and presenting the case for moving debt obligation relief for the repayment of $100 million for hurricane protection following Hurricane Katrina.
The leadership roundtables precede the announcement of a 2017 updated master plan for coastal restoration and protection to be considered by the Louisiana Legislature and a December 7th Summit on the National Implications of Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan.