By Amanda Moore, Greater New Orleans Program Manager, National Wildlife Federation
Despite torrential rains and flooded streets, well over 100 residents in the Greater New Orleans area ventured out on the evening of July 18th to engage in a discussion about coastal restoration. National Wildlife Federation was proud to partner with the City of New Orleans as forum hosts and welcomed speakers Wes Kungel of Senator Mary Landrieu’s office, Garret Graves of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, and Colonel Ed Fleming of the Army Corps of Engineers.
At this historic time for the Mississippi River Delta, with so much in play, it’s important to ensure that stakeholders in the Greater New Orleans area are aware of the latest developments for our coast. Events like these also offer citizens the chance to engage in the restoration process that will help protect the city from storm events and create new economic opportunities. The audience was full of note-takers as our speakers gave an overview of current events, emphasized the public’s role in making sure our restoration efforts are a success and answered audience questions in a lively Q&A session for well over an hour.
The evening started with Mr. Kungel’s review of the recent passage of the RESTORE Act, which will bring between $5 and 21 billion dollars to the Gulf Coast for restoration, and what it means to Louisiana. He let us know what lies ahead for RESTORE, such as the December 2012 final pretrial conference that leads to the Clean Water Act penalty assessment and activation of RESTORE Act provision. Mr. Graves spoke next about the 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, which he referred to as the “most innovative coastal plan in the country.” The plan was passed in the Louisiana Legislature this year and will be a major driver for how RESTORE funds are spent in Louisiana. Finally, Col. Fleming discussed coastal restoration projects the Corps is engaged with in the Greater New Orleans area, like restoration planning along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and how local contractors can get involved in construction of projects.
Col. Fleming said it well, “In building restoration projects, you can put a lot of folks to work, save the environment, and build a buffer zone [from storms] all at the same time.”
That sounds like a plan to me.
The forum marked the first in a series of events to be hosted by NWF and the City of New Orleans. Check out photos from the event here.