An announcement recently by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is being hailed by the America's WETLAND Foundation (AWF) as essential to coastal restoration. Word that the White House Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council rendered approval to Edwards' request to include Louisiana's Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion project on the Federal Permitting Dashboard was welcomed as a first step in a government-wide effort to streamline the federal permitting and review process which can hamper the urgency of restoration.
In a New Year letter, AWF appealed to the Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, to consider allowing innovative policy adjustments for permitting projects whose time lines and cost overruns threaten the restoration efforts. The letter from AWF chairman, King Milling, stated, "In a few months the Louisiana Legislature will consider the third iteration of its Master Plan for Coastal Protection & Restoration in Louisiana. You and your colleagues at the Army Corps of Engineers have been strong and continuous partners with the state through numerous executive administrations at the Federal and state levels. I write today to ask your consideration for approving tactical guidelines that can address the need for urgency in restoring one of the nation's most productive and threatened coastal areas."
At issue for years has been a federal process conducted as business as usual without consideration for the urgency needed to address the challenge or for the rate of land loss AWF has long noted is equal to a football field of land an hour in coastal Louisiana.
"What may seem like a routine accomplishment by Governor Edwards and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) is, in fact, rather monumental," former CPRA Chair and AWF senior advisor, Sidney Coffee, said. "For more than a decade the state has worked in earnest to develop a comprehensive plan for coastal restoration and protection. Now we see that implementing the plan will help to define a new federal approach to streamlining permits under special circumstances."
AWF has called for actions that will provide incentives for private landowners which would not require them to re-title land to the Federal government for project authorization and would allow for general or emergency permits predicated on consistent previous activity as allowance for new restoration projects.
"We have an emergency in Coastal Louisiana not unlike any major disaster such as a hurricane or tornado; ours is just a constant storm," Val Marmillion, AWF managing director, said. "This news that recognizes the urgency of our situation signals that Louisiana and the Federal government are upping the game to meet the crisis of land loss and none too soon."
About America's WETLAND Foundation
The America's WETLAND Foundation manages the largest, most comprehensive public education campaign in Louisiana's history, raising public awareness of the impact of Louisiana's wetland loss on the state, nation and world. The initiative is supported by a growing coalition of world, national and state conservation and environmental organizations and has drawn private support from businesses that see wetlands protection as a key to economic growth. For more information, visit www.americaswetland.com.