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Briefing on Efforts to Save Louisiana's Coast - June 17, 2008

FONO teamed up with Environmental Defense Fund for a day of activities on Capitol Hill to bring attention to the urgent need to restore Louisiana's disappearing coastline. The series of events included a briefing in the Senate Russell Building on the status of coastal Louisiana wetlands restoration, and efforts to restore the damage caused by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO).

Natural history photographer and author C.C. Lockwood opened up the panel with an educational slideshow of his photographs of the state's coastal area, providing an overview of the issue and the current situation. Paul Harrison of Environmental Defense followed with discussion of current policy opportunities, specifically addressing the need to fix the damage caused by the MRGO.   

Since its construction in the 1960s, the MRGO has destroyed more than 27,000 acres of wetlands that served as a natural storm buffer, and during hurricane Katrina, created a thoroughfare for storm waters into the heart of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish. Harrison said that the Corps of Engineers was doing the right thing by closing the channel, but emphasized that they needed to finish the job by repairing the damaged area. He urged the audience of mostly congressional staff to not only ask the Corps for their plan for a comprehensive restoration effort, but to also to ensure that the plan received adequate funding. 

Tab Benoit, 2007 Grammy nominee and founder of the nonprofit organization Voice of the Wetlands wrapped up the panel with a plea for urgent action to be taken. A resident of Houma, Louisiana, Tab has long been an advocate for the coast. He stressed that Louisiana has provided much to the nation in terms of seafood, oil and gas, but that this had taken a toll on the state.  The state simply can't wait any longer.   

That evening, FONO and Environmental Defense Fund hosted a "Capitol Hill Bayou Bash" complete with a crawfish boil and show by Tab Benoit at the American Legion. In addition to entertaining the full house with his unique Southern Louisiana music, Tab spoke at length about the issue, and urged the audience to support efforts to preserve and restore the state's wetlands, not only for Louisiana but for the world.

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