BP oil spill fines offer opportunity to restore coast

Published 12:26 am Sunday, August 26, 2012

Louisiana is in a place of great historical significance.

As we determine what to do with the money we receive from the BP oil-spill fines, we are positioning our state for success or failure in the effort to turn back the tide of coastal erosion and restore our coastal region’s future viability.

If we make the right decisions and set the wise course, we could be setting the stage for a remarkable improvement in our state’s most-pressing and daunting problem.

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If we make the wrong choices and take a short-term view of the decisions before us, we could well squander an excellent opportunity to improve life for our children and grandchildren.

We have the opportunity for great achievement or monumental waste.

So the path we take in the next year or so will have far-reaching implications.

Some Louisiana lawmakers and coastal advocates have banded together to demand that we take the prudent actions demanded of us.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use billions to fix our coast,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie. “Louisiana has gotten big windfalls of money and too many times squandered it. We’ve got to make sure we use this the right way.”

The stakes are huge. …

The test will be what our state does with it.

Scalise and the coastal advocates have formed the Restore Coalition to keep tabs on the state and make sure we are wise with the money.

Some officials have said the fines will allow Louisiana to make a down payment on the state’s 50-year coastal plan, the best and most-comprehensive plan for how to make living along the coast as safe as possible for as many people as possible over the next five decades.

There are coastal projects and flood-protection projects included in the plan, which will require about $50 billion to be fully implemented.

The fine money will allow the state to make a sizeable investment in the future, but the state must maintain a long-term view of how necessary it is to spend this money on large goals rather than succumb to the temptation of using the money now on short-term goals.

The coalition will be doing important work. It is up to the rest of us, too, to demand the best from those who represent us in Baton Rouge.

Our future is at stake.