A new national survey commissioned by America’s Wetland Foundation found that Americans’ awareness of issues like coastal erosion in Louisiana is growing.
According to survey results released Monday, 64 percent of the participants said they knew that the term “America’s Wetland” referred to a specific area of wetlands in Louisiana.
The foundation commissioned the online survey to get a look at national opinion about the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast, said Sidney Coffee, senior policy adviser with the foundation. Some of the results were encouraging and others were surprising, she said.
“I think that the recognition that we’re branded as ‘America’s Wetland’ is important for Louisiana,” Coffee said.
The nonprofit foundation was formed about 10 years ago to help the state raise awareness about coastal erosion and other issues impacting the coast.
Some responses in the survey were surprising, such as the large percentage of participants who believe the federal government has a responsibility in restoring and maintaining the Mississippi and the coast.
One question asked, “Do you think the federal government should (1) definitely be responsible for protecting coastal areas that supply energy to the U.S., (2) probably should be responsible, (3) probably should not be responsible or (4) definitely should not be responsible for protecting coastal areas that supply energy to the U.S.”
According to the survey results, 90 percent of the participants said the federal government should either definitely be responsible or probably should be responsible.
That kind of support helps relieve fears that there is a national fatigue of hearing about — and spending money in — Louisiana because of the four major hurricanes since 2005 and last year’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, she said.
“We were very concerned about that,” Coffee said.
The national survey was conducted between Aug. 10 and Aug. 14 by Jim Kitchens, of the Kitchens Group in Florida. In total, 1,132 voters were included in the survey. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 2.9 percent.
The survey asked nine questions about water quality, the river, energy production and how familiar the participants were with issues facing the coast.
Another question was, “Is it the responsibility of the federal government to restore and maintain the environmental health of the Mississippi River?” According to the survey, 84 percent of the participants said yes while 16 percent said no.
In addition, it appears that people think the health of the river should involve cooperation between states that drain into it.
The survey asked, “Should the 31 states along the Mississippi River and tributaries establish cooperative policies and methods to ensure that the entire Mississippi River system is healthy in terms of its water quality and water supply?”
A majority of participants, 97 percent, said yes while 3 percent said no.
Coffee said next summer the foundation plans to start a new program that will bring together these states to talk about policy and policy needs that can help improve the health of the Mississippi River.
A healthy river means a healthier delta in Louisiana, Coffee said. The topic of those discussions could range from how to reduce nutrients in the river that lead to the annual “dead zone” of low oxygen in the Gulf every summer to addressing the amount of sediment that gets trapped upriver by dams but is needed for coastal restoration.