Dardenne: Too late to save some areas of Gulf Coast

April 23, 2011 at 1:15 am

Officials from across south Louisiana said residents along the entire Gulf Coast will face tough decisions.

Tuesday began the first of 14 meetings to develop plans on how to sustain coastal communities that are susceptible to natural and manmade disasters and coastal erosion.

The most distressing information was the revelation that some areas won’t be saved.

By 2030, the Gulf Coast is expected to lose $350 billion dollars worth of coastal assets, which includes capital investments, according to the Gulf Coast Adaptation Study by Entergy and America’s Wetland Foundation.

In Southwest Louisiana, the loss would be between $19 billion and $23 billion, said Dr. Robert Twilley, vice president of research at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

“I can’t say what towns will or won’t be here, but we have to talk about what can be safeguarded realistically and what we can’t,” said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.

“The conversation now has to be between the five states because of the leverage power,” said Gary Serio, vice president of corporate safety and environment for Entergy. “Taking it from a regional issue to a national agenda is the only way to get this done.”

Sidney Coffee with America’s Wetland Foundation outlined some of the studies and planning that was done before this series of meetings.

“A lot of what is suggested will be based on Deltas2010, where we looked at how similar ecosystems all over the world are faring and what the governments are doing,” Coffee said.

The conference took place in October 2010 in New Orleans and brought together more than 400 scientists, engineers and government officials from around the world.

Common problems include a need for comprehensive state and national preservation plans, a lack of political will to present the unpopular plans and a lack of urgency of the public.

A focus group of Southwest Louisiana residents expressed their frustration with the slow progress, or lack thereof, and a feeling of being disconnected from other parishes.

“Residents are also concerned about a loss of culture that goes with these areas,” said Val Marmillion, managing director of America’s Wetland Foundation.

Marmillion quoted focus groups members saying, “If you maintain the marsh, you maintain the culture (of hunting and fishing). If it goes away, so does the culture.”

Southwest Louisiana has made strides, with about $200 million in recovery projects that have been in place since Hurricane Rita struck in 2005, Marmillion said.

“Another issue with coastal deterioration is that some employers have had to leave Cameron and Vermillion parishes. This loss of infrastructure can put a strain on school systems,” Marmillion said.

The 14 meetings will take place in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida over the next 17 months.

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