Letter: Bills would commit state to restoring vanishing coast

As Louisiana continues to address the ongoing land loss crisis in our coastal zone, the legislature is considering two bills, HB148 and HB490, that seek to assure that funding dedicated to restoring our coast is protected and secured.

These two bills are important for the future of coastal restoration in Louisiana. The first is HB148, Rep. Simone Champagne’s bill to protect RESTORE Act funds coming to the state. It will ensure that penalties and fees from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill coming through the RESTORE Act go into the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund (Coastal Fund) and are constitutionally protected.

The RESTORE Act was passed by Congress as a vehicle to distribute the penalties incurred from the largest oil spill in U.S. history that occurred so close to Louisiana’s shoreline. To use these funds from Clean Water Act violations for purposes other than coastal restoration is not appropriate. There are other penalties coming, including economic penalties, that address other losses to the state as a result of the spill, but the RESTORE Act specifically addresses harm to the environment. Louisiana continues to experience impacts on wildlife and habitat from the oil spill and will for years to come. These funds must be used to repair our coast to protect the people that depend on a healthy, sustainable coast.

The second is Rep. BrettGeymann’s bill, HB490, to ensure that funding will not be removed from the Coastal Fund and used for other purposes. In recent years, one-time monies have been moved from the Coastal Fund to other funds that cannot constitutionally accept one-time monies. This bill states that money cannot be transferred out of the Coastal Fund, further ensuring that the oil spill and other future Coastal Fund monies be used for restoration. Working together, these two bills provide security for future funding needs.

Simply put, Louisiana must show we are serious about committing money from a coastal disaster toward coastal restoration. These two bills offer constitutional protection, to be decided by the voters of Louisiana, which would be the greatest statement we can make about our commitment and ability to deal with the crisis.

Michelle Maloney

Louisiana Wildlife Federation

Baton Rouge