POSITION: Executive director of Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
For the past six years, Steven Peyronnin has served as executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, a nonprofit advocacy organization with a 25-year history of bringing together coastal interest groups in an effort to protect and restore a sustainable coastal Louisiana. A native of Baton Rouge, Peyronnin credits his interest in the coast to a childhood spent hunting and fishing in the Atchafalaya Basin followed by working offshore in the oil and gas industry to support his degree in political science.
Where are we now in coastal restoration compared with five or 10 years ago?
There is real momentum here. With a unanimously approved coastal master plan and the potential for large sums of money from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, there are real opportunities and real movement that I haven’t seen on this issue in the last 10 years.
What do you see as the major challenges for coastal restoration as the $50 billion, 50-year state master plan moves forward?
The biggest challenge we face is having the courage to do big things. The state’s master plan gives us a scientifically based blueprint for how we can gain more land than we lose by the year 2060. That is an astounding possibility, but only if we have the courage to make the commitment and the investment.
Is there greater awareness nationwide about coastal land loss issues?
Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and the Deepwater Horizon disaster have certainly increased awareness about coastal Louisiana, but our bid for national attention is competing against issues like Hurricane Sandy relief, a backlog of civil works projects, a growing deficit and a sluggish economy. That’s why investing our own state dollars in coastal restoration has gone a long way to leveraging federal interest in our coast.
A long-standing complaint from some people is that there have been lots of smaller coastal restoration projects but nothing big enough to halt land loss. Do you see that changing now?
The fact that we are losing approximately 16 square miles of land every year has forced us to accept that any potential solution is going to require big projects. But instead of viewing projects as big or small, we should be focused on projects that build the most land for the least cost. With limited funding, limited resources and limited time, the true measure of a successful project should be efficiency and sustainability.
What do we still need to know scientifically to move forward with large coastal restoration projects?
First, we have enough science to get started, and beyond that, science can help point the path to success; but the question science can’t answer is what we as a society are willing to give up to get there.
Advocate staff writer Amy Wold