Proposed budget jeopardizes critical wetlands restoration
On Monday, President Obama unveiled a $4 trillion proposed budget that would tap more than $3 billion in future oil and gas revenues from Gulf Coast states to pay for other national conservation priorities. This shift would divert monies from coastal restoration projects in Louisiana.
National and local conservation organizations committed to coastal Louisiana restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – issued the following statement in response:
“We are encouraged by and committed to the elements of the President’s budget that take on climate change, support the development of clean energy, and fully fund the woefully underfunded Land and Water Conservation Fund and other crucial conservation initiatives. But we are disappointed by the budget’s proposed diversion of critically needed and currently dedicated funding for coastal Louisiana and the Mississippi River Delta.
“This proposed budget undercuts the Administration’s previous commitments to restore critical economic infrastructure and ecosystems in the Mississippi River Delta, where we are losing sixteen square miles of critical wetlands every year – a preventable coastal erosion crisis. Those wetlands, and the culture and economic infrastructure they protect from hurricanes, will be lost without complete and ongoing intervention. And that intervention – currently underway through implementation of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan – cannot be successful without sufficient funding.
“We urge Congress to fund the President’s commitments to coastal restoration and conservation by maintaining GOMESA funding that is vital to the Gulf Coast and by identifying additional funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other priorities. The Mississippi River Delta is a national treasure that is home to millions of Americans, provides vital wildlife habitat, and supports billions of dollars in seafood production, navigation interests and energy production. This landscape deserves our full attention – and comprehensive restoration.”
The budget proposal would shift hundreds of millions of dollars of offshore oil and gas GOMESA revenue from Louisiana to other spending needs. Louisiana already constitutionally dedicated these future monies to the critical efforts now underway to restore coastal Louisiana and the Mississippi River Delta.
Additionally, the groups express strong disappointment that the Administration proposal walks away from an essential longstanding commitment to Army Corps of Engineers funding for construction of critical restoration projects. For four years, the Administration has proposed investing in the Corps budget to restore the delta through the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) program. In fiscal year 2013, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo Ellen Darcy explained the investment to Congress that restoring coastal Louisiana is “a nationally significant and urgent effort to both restore habitat and protect the important Louisiana Gulf region from the destructive forces of storm driven waves and tides.”
“The LCA program is far too important to abandon or delay,” said EDF, NWF, NAS and LPBF. “The Administration and Congress should do all they can to fund it as soon and as fully as possible.”
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