Governor Edwards’ Speech Seen as Paving the Way for a More Resilient Louisiana Coast
Second-term priorities integrate state agencies into coastal plan and begin to limit worst effects of sea level rise
(BATON ROUGE, La. – February 20, 2020) Today, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards outlined his second-term priorities for Louisiana’s coast and how his administration aims to protect people, wildlife and jobs in the face of the state’s ongoing land loss and climate crises.
Restore the Mississippi River Delta – a coalition of national and local conservation organizations committed to coastal restoration in Louisiana composed of Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – issued the following statement from its leadership in response:
“The ambitious priorities outlined by Governor Edwards today can have a lasting positive impact on Louisiana for generations to come,” said Steve Cochran, campaign director for Restore the Mississippi River Delta. “To protect the future of our state, we must do everything we can to limit the rate of sea level rise, we must adapt to changes that are already occurring along our coast, and we must think long term about our jobs. Today, the Governor took essential steps on each of these. This is what progress looks like.”
In addition to ongoing climate adaption work, the governor announced that the State of Louisiana will establish a Climate Initiatives Task Force to begin exploring efforts to reduce in-state carbon emissions in order to contribute to global emissions reductions and limit the worst effects of sea level rise.
“Louisiana is already a model for how to plan for climate adaptation and build coastal resilience,“ said Natalie Snider, senior director of coastal resilience at Environmental Defense Fund. “We now have the opportunity to become a model for how to reduce emissions in a state with a fossil-fuel-based economy.”
In the announcement, the governor also issued an executive order naming Charles Sutcliffe as the state’s first Chief Resilience Officer, charged with integrating the science behind the Coastal Master Plan into operations and decision-making across other state agencies.
“Our coastal land loss and climate crises touch every aspect of life and government in Louisiana, so it is very encouraging to see state government beginning to organize around that understanding. ” said Kimberly Davis Reyher, executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
The Governor also underscored the need for the State of Louisiana to do more working with the US Army Corps of Engineers to better manage its rivers for their restoration potential in addition to flood protection, navigation, water quality and fisheries habitat.
“Recent floods and Bonnet Carré Spillway openings signal that we need to rethink how we manage our rivers and prioritize restoration alongside flood protection and navigation,” said John Lopez, director of coast and community program at Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.
“Louisiana’s future depends on our ability to manage our rivers to again build and sustain wetlands,” said David Muth, director of Gulf Restoration with the National Wildlife Federation. “While we must do everything in our power to limit the rate of sea level rise, the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers are the only forces powerful enough to push back against effects of climate change we know are already coming.”
The Governor also announced that at least $115 million in state surplus dollars would be directed to coastal work.
“We are pleased to see the Governor commit state surplus dollars to coastal restoration and protection,” said Brian Moore, vice president of gulf policy at National Audubon Society. “In doing so, the state is putting its money where its mouth is and demonstrating how important the coast is to its future.”
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacques Hebert, Environmental Defense Fund, 504.264.6849, email@example.com
Lauren Bourg, National Audubon Society, 225.776.9838, firstname.lastname@example.org
James Karst, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, email@example.com
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Restore the Mississippi River Delta:
Restore the Mississippi River Delta is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of threatening land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Composed of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, we are located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. Learn more at MississippiRiverDelta.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.