By David Muth, National Wildlife Federation
On Feb. 25, seven organizations sent joint comments to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), voicing strong support for the Draft 2012 Coastal Master Plan. The comments propose a number of ways we feel the master plan can be strengthened and a number of actions we believe the state should undertake going forward.
The tenor of the comments is one of praise for the master plan. We believe the plan builds upon and hones ideas from prior master plans to create a practical, achievable and scientifically credible program. Implementation is urgently needed to reduce asset damage and change the trajectory from land loss to land gain on Louisiana’s coast. This master plan proposes the actions necessary to allow the Mississippi River to reoccupy its delta, thereby creating incalculable long-term benefits for the nation’s most productive ecosystem.
The master plan correctly lays out a stark future for the coast if no action is taken. It demonstrates that to continue the “half measures” that have characterized coastal restoration efforts to date will lead to a future nearly as bleak. But by embracing alternatives to levees for hurricane protection and reconnecting the river to its delta, the master plan promises to fundamentally reshape our relationship with forces that will otherwise overwhelm our children and grandchildren. By committing to such bold new actions, coupled with traditional and proven marsh creation and barrier island replenishment techniques, Louisiana will establish itself as a national leader, demonstrating how to use science, stakeholder involvement, and wise resource allocation to reverse decades of decline. Getting it right could make the state a national and global model of how communities can and must adapt to complex coastal problems that will only become worse with sea level rise.
We particularly support the process used to develop the master plan. The painstaking process used to develop the Coastal Master Plan represents a milestone, not only for Louisiana, but for our nation. Integration of landscape-scale coastal restoration and structural and non-structural protection required groundbreaking methods and analytical techniques. The development of models, as well as applying science, engineering and economics to assess multi-layered solutions, helped to produce the best possible plan using the best available information. This technical groundwork was in turn informed and guided by teams of outside experts, consultants, focus groups, the public and the Framework Development Team.
We recommend the state begin now to develop the next generation of projects to incorporate into the 2017 Coastal Master Plan. It is important to have a mechanism for developing new project ideas that is based on what has been learned from the planning process and from projects on the ground. This adaptive process is essential if we are to fully understand how the current projects in the plan stack up against what is needed. It will provide credible mechanisms for closing the gap between what appears feasible now and what is really necessary for coastal restoration and protection.