State and federal scientists and officials inspect a recently formed marsh island, part of a freshwater diversion project to counteract coastal erosion, during a tour for federal and state coastal restoration representatives hosted by Plaquemines Parish in Venice. Islands like this one are formed when sediment flowing down the Mississippi river is deposited in calmer waters. The general idea of a freshwater diversion is to divert this sediment filled water from the fast moving Mississippi to calmer areas by way of diversion canals branching off from the river.

Coastal land loss and its ensuing hurricane risk are an existential threat to Louisiana. Our state is already missing 2,000 square miles of coast and we are on track to lose between 2,250 to 4,000 more square miles in the coming 50 years. Given the crisis at hand, we have no time for partisanship and certainly no time for baseless allegations that threaten the integrity of the coastal program.

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The state has gone out of its way to eliminate political favoritism from the pursuit of a more sustainable coast. The coastal program is driven by the Coastal Master Plan, based on science and engineering, and informed by thorough engagement with the public. Once approved by the CPRA Board, the Coastal Master Plan is then voted on by House and Senate Natural Resources and Transportation committees and the full chamber of both houses. Legislators, to the consternation of some, do not get a line-item veto on the Coastal Master Plan. The vote is up or down. In 2007, 2012, and 2017, each of these plans has been approved with unanimous support of the Legislature.

Some may feel that throwing dirt is just part of politics, but when it comes to the coast these types of distractions are dangerously out of place. The Coastal Master Plan process began under Gov. Kathleen Blanco, evolved and matured under Gov. Bobby Jindal, and has been strongly supported and promoted during the past four years. Empowered by Deepwater Horizon funds and GOMESA, the coastal program is on strong footing, constructing more projects than any time in history this fiscal year and readying massive projects for implementation in the coming years.

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Protecting and restoring our coast is the first-order priority. It provides the foundation for us to scaffold other important concerns such as the economy, public safety, education, and many others. The stakes could not be higher. I suggest the public should follow the progress of the coastal program closely. It should push the state to be ambitious and bold as it builds out the Coastal Master Plan. The public should expect candidates for office to support and promote the implementation of the Coastal Master Plan. False, partisan attacks are counterproductive and have no place in this issue.

The coastal crisis is the most complicated and dire problem we face. To the credit of this entire state, the severity and importance of this issue, coupled with the integrity of the Coastal Master Plan, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has allowed us to unite around a common cause and strategy for survival. Politicizing this issue is one of the surest ways to derail and delay some of the most impressive and important work being done in Louisiana and throughout the country.

R. King Milling

CPRA board member

New Orleans