There’s a transition coming up for Louisiana when voters select a new governor this fall, but coastal activists hope that transition won’t result in a slowdown of coastal restoration and protection work while the new governor’s team settles in.
So campaign staff members of governor hopefuls got a coastal tutorial Tuesday during a full-day meeting in Baton Rouge on projects that have been built, are in construction now or are being planned.
And they heard a plea that leadership positions be chosen very carefully.
“These projects cannot afford to come to a screeching halt or slow down to wait for a new group to catch up,” said Cynthia Duet, deputy director of Audubon Louisiana. “These projects and the 2017 master plan need to continue on a path forward.”
Duet urged the representatives of numerous coastal nonprofits at the meeting to spread the message that there is too much at stake for a new governor to slow down the work that has taken years to get going.
And, she said, the years of institutional knowledge at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority need to be preserved or at least passed on.
Both the governor’s coastal adviser and the director of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority are appointed by the governor. These are people who have been with the program for years and understand the issues and challenges facing the coastal program.
Candidates for governor were invited to send staff members, and Scott Angelle, Jay Dardenne and John Bel Edwards did just that. Although David Vitter’s staff member couldn’t attend, Duet said he read the large amount of information and background material sent to him.
“They’re all very well aware of coastal issues,” Duet said of the candidates.
David Muth, director of the Gulf Restoration Program for the National Wildlife Federation, said his fear isn’t that the new governor will try to revamp the entire coastal plan. The state’s master plan for coastal restoration and protection has too much support from the public and elected officials.
The fear he does have is that the new governor might push for the easy projects in the state master plan at the expense of more-challenging projects that could have a lasting impression on the coast.
The projects run the gamut from marsh creation to diversions of fresh water and sediment from the Mississippi River into the surrounding marshes. Many of these projects already have momentum while others have been years in the planning.
The coalition includes the Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. Other partners are The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, Louisiana Wildlife Federation and Restore or Retreat.
The group released a report in December outlining what projects in the state’s coastal master plan they would like to see be made priorities for RESTORE Act money.
The RESTORE Act was passed in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010 and it outlines how Clean Water Act fines charged to BP will be spent along the Gulf Coast.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.