Last week, Aaron and I both attended the “Diversions Summit” called by the Corps of Engineers to discuss reintroducing the Mississippi River into the wetlands of southeastern Louisiana. While there was some great research and some great ideas proposed, I left the conference wondering “what next?” When I spoke at the conference, I emphasized the need for action and a time line to begin the enormous task of building Mississippi River reintroductions, with the end goal of a sustainable coast. Check what Amy Wold at the Baton Rouge Advocate wrote on March 13: Matt Rota, Water Resources Program director with the Gulf Restoration Network, spoke publicly about what many people at the conference were talking about privately.”I’ve been to this meeting before,” Rota said. All the presentations have been given before and although the information is good, he said, he wanted to know what should be the next step.”I want to know who in this room has the ability to make these hard decisions,” Rota said.The state, federal and other partners have been at this work for a number of years, he said.”The public is getting frustrated that nothing is happening,” Rota said. And if there are things happening, that needs to get out to the public so people know what is going on, he said….Carlton Dufrechou, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, agreed.”We’re talking about restoration. We’re talking about it, but we’re not doing it,” he said. “We have not committed to do anything bold about it.” We need strong leadership within the Corps and Louisiana to make hard decisions. Everybody is not going to be happy with any decision that is made that might impact land use, navigation, wildlife, fisheries, and myriad other things. Up to this point that leadership has not stepped up to put aside politics and do what is necessary to save our coast. One thing that I can say is the Brigadier General Michael Walsh was there for the entire meeting, actively listening to the scientific presentations and the presentations from the public. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the State. Garret Graves, Director of the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities was conspicuous by his absence for a large percentage of the two day public session. The state must show that they are an active participant in the process, and that includes making it a priority to hear what the public has to say. After all, it is the public that needs to be protected by restoring our coastal lines of defense. While there are still many scientific questions to be answered, it is clear that that consensus has been reached, at regarding the fact that large scale coastal restoration has to start now. So what do we need? We need strong leadership that will engage and listen to the stakeholders and then make the tough decisions to protect their the citizens of the Lousiana. Vital time that could be spent on physically restoring our wetlands is slipping away.The bottom line is that our leaders must work together, use the best available science, and take bold actions to ensure the sustainability of southeastern Louisiana.Matt Rota is the Water Resources Program Director at GRN

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