Groups to Louisiana Legislature: Ensure oil spill fines are used for coastal restoration

Earlier this week, the Louisiana Legislature finalized passage of the 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan. This landmark document lays out a bold, science-based vision for restoring the state’s vanishing coastline. The suite of restoration projects included in the plan promises to ease and then reverse the state’s staggering land-loss rates over the course of 50 years.

However, this aggressive undertaking is not inexpensive. Projected costs for the plan total some $50 billion. But the state has a lifeline in the form of the RESTORE Act, a Congressional bill that, if passed, promises to dedicate 80% of Clean Water Act fines from the BP oil disaster to Gulf Coast states for restoration.

Scientists assess oiled marshes in Barataria Bay, La.

With fine totals projected to fall between $5 and $20 billion, Louisiana’s share could be used to jumpstart the development of critical projects in the Coastal Master Plan.

A motion in the Louisiana Legislature would do just that. House Bills 812 and 838, which would put a constitutional amendment before voters to dedicate RESTORE Act fines to the state’s Coast Protection and Restoration Trust Fund, unanimously passed the Louisiana House and now await action by the Senate Finance Committee. The idea of a constitutional amendment enjoys wide public support. In a poll conducted in April by Southern Media and Opinion Research, 79% of voters surveyed indicated they would vote yes on a constitutional amendment to dedicate RESTORE Act fines to Coastal Master Plan projects.

These amendments represent the best hope for an early start to Coastal Master Plan restoration projects. We strongly urge the Louisiana State Senate to pass HB 812’s and 838’s equivalents — in their current form — as soon as possible.

Left unchecked, coastal land loss threatens the very survival of Louisiana’s coastal communities and infrastructure. For the first time, Louisiana has a tangible, science-based plan in place to tackle this formidable issue. It is up to Congress and the Louisiana Legislature to ensure the projects in this plan move forward. Both can make this happen — Congress by passing the RESTORE Act and the Louisiana Legislature by putting the BP spill money to its best use.