So the results are pouring in. Over 100 GRN e-activists from all across the country (and Germany) stepped up for the Louisiana coast and our wetlands and opened their homes to friends, family and colleagues in order to drop some knowledge about our land-loss crisis (and maybe serve up some home cooked red beans and rice). Click the flickr screenshot to see the map and photos of some of our reported events). Thanks to all our hosts - who generated some great media and great support for the coastal cause.
Two years and 217 + square miles of coastal marsh ago, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita roared ashore and changed life as we know it here in New Orleans, and throughout much of the Central Gulf Coast. These storms brought many of the issues that the GRN has been tackling for 14 years or so into far sharper relief: the prioritization and effectiveness of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, water pollution, coastal development and coastal wetlands protection and restoration.
We've endeavored to grab ahold of the teachable moment that the devastating hurricane season of 2005 represents in order to let people know that restoring our coast isn't just about shrimp & redfish, or crawfish & cypress - it's about the very survival of New Orleans and our coastal communities. As the research mounts, demonstrating that every 3.4 miles of intact coastal wetlands a storm travels over knocks down its surge by one foot, it doesn't take overwhelming vision to understand the real, immediate value of these marshes.
Through the home screenings of Louisiana Public Broadcasting and award-winning independent producer Christina Melton's documentary Washing Away: Losing Louisiana, our e-activists helped spread that message.
Here at the GRN, we have a saying: “Protect our wetlands, protect ourselves.” Unfortunately, protecting and restoring these wetlands is a job that’s beyond gutting houses and putting up sheetrock. A few church groups from the Midwest aren’t really going to be able to make a dent in this one. We need to put the Mississippi River, and its fresh water and sediment, to work. We need the river to sustain and rebuild our coast. That’s big engineering. That’s big expense. That’s the federal government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (gulp).
Louisiana coastal experts and the Corps have developed and are further developing the plans to sustain the coast. But plans are cheap – it’s the actual projects and engineering that run to $50 billion. About $2 billion in projects would be authorized by the current Water Resources Development Act (WRDA, say “WurDuh” if you want to sound like a DC insider). The problem dear reader, is that in a hail Mary to recapture the right, President Bush has threatened to veto WRDA, citing its expense. He says pork, we say future of our region. Of course he also once said he would “do whatever it takes” to make New Orleans and South Louisiana rise again.
We’re faced with a significant political challenge that despite hard work and the best of intentions (let alone federally marked cash in the freezer, a phone number on the DC Madame’s speed dial, and a staggering road home shortfall) Louisiana’s congressional delegation won’t be able to tackle on their own. This is why the home screenings were so critical, and worth the time and effort. We need help from elsewhere. We need your friends and family who think you’re crazy for living here (but clamoring for your guest room during Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest) to clue in their members of Congress and remind the President of his pledge.
Now’s the time to act, as Congress is just getting back from their August recess and we really need them to pass WRDA in the Senate and work to override the President’s veto, or we simply kiss New Orleans and South Louisiana goodbye.
Aaron Viles is the GRN's Campaign Director