By Scott Madere, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
The release of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana is a major milestone in the effort to protect and restore our coastal wetlands. While it is not the first long-range plan for addressing the issue of coastal land loss, it is the best strategic approach we have to date for guiding Louisiana through this very complicated process. And it is the first official plan that makes the hard choices that we have avoided for so long, but which we all knew had to be made. Grounded in scientific research, adaptive in structure and specific in its recommendations, the 2012 Coastal Master Plan builds on the state’s previous plans and elevates its strategy into a coordinated vision of efficiency and flexibility.
The 2012 Coastal Master Plan is an update to Louisiana’s coastal restoration policy that is mandated by the Louisiana Legislature every five years. The first Master Plan, released in 2007, outlined what needed to be done to protect and restore Louisiana’s coast in a broad, general way. 2012’s Master Plan differs from its predecessor, building upon it by listing specific projects with specific goals. Not only does the 2012 Coastal Master Plan reveal WHAT to do about coastal land loss, it reveals HOW to specifically address the issue.
The 2012 plan is science-driven and technically robust as it relates to the evaluation and selection of coastal restoration and risk reduction projects. For the first time, we have a Master Plan that accounts for obstacles that might get in the way of these projects: funding, delays and the availability of resources, among other setbacks. The 2012 Coastal Master Plan will also adapt when it comes to the success or failure of a particular project. If a technique is working, it can become a greater part of the strategy. If it is not performing as expected, the plan incorporates adaptive management to make corrections. The flexibility of this latest master plan is a defining element of its construction. It is not a static document.
This is a particularly important trait as the 2012 Coastal Master Plan is a long-range road map. It is intended to provide coastal restoration vision for the next 50 years. During that time, there will be tremendous uncertainties in funding for these projects. Because of this, the 2012 plan has the flexibility to account for a wide range of funding scenarios. It can change over time.
The availability of resources, funding and time to implement projects also comes into play with regard to the actual recommendations in the plan. Hard choices had to be made, and are still to come, in the structure of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. Within the document, the state of Louisiana acknowledges that victories in coastal restoration will also have to come with sacrifice. Not every community will receive the same level of protection, and not every bit of coastline will receive attention from the Master Plan. The state will attempt to implement projects that benefit the most people with the least amount of adverse impact.
While it may not be possible to restore the Louisiana coast to what it was 100 years ago, the 2012 Coastal Master Plan will put the state on track to achieving a sustainable coast. With the release of this
plan, the state of Louisiana has taken a big step forward with producing a coordinated, scientific, objective set of projects. This is a Master Plan not intended to serve as the final word, but rather the foundation of our coastal restoration strategy.
Scott M. Madere is the director of communications for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL). To find out more about CRCL’s commitment to preserving and restoring the Louisiana coast, visit www.crcl.org.