Funding for Louisiana coastal restoration in Obama’s budget is a milestone: An editorial

By Editorial page staff, The Times-Picayune
February 03, 2010, 6:29AM


It’s the first time that the Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration program has received federal construction funding, a significant milestone for the state.

"The fact that coastal restoration in Louisiana is one of the only new construction projects requested by the president … is a clear message that the tide is turning,” said Garret Graves, adviser to Gov. Bobby Jindal. "For over 80 years, our state has lost over 2,300 square miles of coastal land; finally the federal government can join us in implementing solutions.” 

That’s critically important given the short window of time — less than a decade — that experts say remains for restoring the coast. 

Projects that have been designed and are ready to build will get $19 million of the money, with the biggest share going to build wetlands with sediment removed from the Mississippi River during routine dredging. That’s a smart approach that makes use of a resource that’s now being wasted. 

Another $16.5 million will be used to complete design work on other Louisiana Coastal Area projects. 

Louisiana must pay 35 percent with the federal share at 65 percent, and the state and corps must work out cost-sharing agreements on each project. 

This money is less than the Obama budget provides for other environmental restoration work, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is slated to get $300 million, and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which is to receive $255 million. But Louisiana’s wetlands also will benefit from a number of other budget items, including $65 million for smaller restoration projects under the Breaux Act. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is slated to get $5.75 million for research into climate change concerns and large-scale conservation, including another $750,000 to develop a "landscape conservation cooperative,” associated with the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is getting $4 million for coastal restoration. 

The budget also targets another environmental problem that affects Louisiana: nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River that causes the Gulf of Mexico dead zone off our coast. The Environmental Protection Agency is slated to get $17 million to reduce nutrient pollution throughout the Mississippi Basin, a welcome effort to shrink the size of the area of low oxygen that forms every summer. 

Taken together, these allocations show that the administration is taking Louisiana’s environmental issues seriously, and that’s a welcome and needed development.