Coastal erosion needs more than reactive planning after a hurricane

Published 11:59 am Friday, September 21, 2012

Louisiana’s coastal residents have long heard about and seen the evidence of the severe coastal erosion, land subsidence and saltwater intrusion that threaten our region. The fact that we know about it, though, has not stopped all those phenomena from continuing and even increasing in recent years.

Unfortunately, it has also not led to much official action to stop any of these enormous, threatening forces.

Now we have reached the point where emergency action is needed to reverse the trends that threaten the future ability of local people to continue living and working in south Louisiana.

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“Instead of looking at the big picture and implementing a vision for long-term sustainability, the nation for too long has reacted to natural and manmade disasters alike with piecemeal, short-term fixes,” said America’s Wetland Foundation Chairman R. King Milling. “The cost to the taxpayer for this reactive thinking has been tens of billions of dollars over the past decade, with little or no effort to address the cause of the problem to be found in these expenditures.” …

Rather than spending billions and billions of dollars cleaning up after each successive storm, wouldn’t it be much more cost-effective and efficient to take steps toward making our region less vulnerable to future storms?

Of course it would, but that forward-thinking, rather than reactive, approach to coastal improvement has been slow to catch on.

There are, however, some signs that things could be changing. With the passage of the federal Restore Act, there could soon be a dedicated stream of money coming to Louisiana expressly for coastal improvement. The state has also approved the rudimentary framework for a long-term coastal plan, which can be put into action with the Restore Act money, if and when the state gets much of it.

Louisiana’s Wetland, though, is right to characterize the situation as an emergency, one that demands immediate action. Having failed so many times in the past to take the necessary action, we cannot afford to let another opportunity be lost.