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Future of coast may brighten up

Our View -   Oct 03, 2013

After the leveeing of the Mississippi River ,which has nearly destroyed the Louisiana coast by depriving it of overflows of fresh water that brought life to our wetlands and marshes, we got a break in 1990. In that year, the Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection and Restoration Act was passed by Congress.

Federal funding was provided for CWPPRA projects that would help bring studies to the drawing board and plans into reality that could reverse the destruction of our coast. It was not done on a very large scale, for sure.

In the beginning, the program provided only about $30 million a year for design and work on projects that had many objectives in sight. Among them were river diversion projects such as the Davis Pond Diversion in St. Charles Parish, pumping sediment from the bottom of the river into bay areas along the coast that are washing away and restoration of barrier islands that protect our coast from extinction as storm surges and regular high tides wash in.

Now the contribution from CWPPRA is up to about $85 million yearly which is still not enough to meet our needs considering the extent of destruction of the thousands of square miles of coast so far. Just ride across the La. Highway 1 bridge in Leeville and you will know what we mean by receding coast.

In the seventies and eighties, the Leeville area was filled with heavy marshes and live trees. Ponds and waterways were few and far between. Now that  marshland below Leeville to Grand Isle has transformed almost into open salty water in which dead trees stand.

There is still hope that the Louisiana coast will rise again. The CWPPRA program so far has restored some areas of the coast and some 13 projects are being constructed with another 40 or so being designed.

But Congressional authorizing for funding of CWPPRA projects is scheduled to end in 2019, which means  the picture could change at that time. However, there are signs that our coast will survive in the future.

A great deal of funding that can be used for coastal restoration of Louisiana’s coast is included in fines being imposed on British Petroleum because of the company’s oil disaster in the Gulf. Louisiana, along with other Gulf states, is scheduled to receive a greater percentage of offshore mineral royalty beginning in the year 2017. Hopes are that it will be changed to an even earlier date.

Plus, the East Bank Levee Association has filed a lawsuit requiring some 100 or so oil and drilling companies to pay for restoration of the Louisiana coast to like it was before they started drilling and digging canals along it without filling them up when finished. Of course there is opposition to this from the defendants and some of the state administration.

But, the future does look somewhat brighter ahead. Hopes are that Louisiana will continue to have one of the most productive coasts in the world for many years to come.

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