Our Views: A coast in common

Thanks to the great peninsula on which the state of Florida sits, it’s a long way by sea from Maine on the Atlantic Ocean to Texas’ tip on the Gulf of Mexico. But in terms of Louisiana’s long struggle with coastal erosion, we’re seeing a lot more commonality of interests among the diverse coastal communities of the United States.

Since 2005, two of the most costly disasters in American history — hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Sandy in 2012 — have revealed a vulnerability that people in New York and New Jersey understood but probably didn’t feel in their bones the way we have in Louisiana, particularly in the path of floodwaters when federally built levees failed in the New Orleans area.

With Gustav in 2008, Louisiana got another hard hit, but Ike also hit southwestern Louisiana and southeast Texas, underscoring the coastal vulnerability of our giant neighbor to the west.

All these events ought to help drive a larger national conversation about not only hurricanes but a rising sea level and its accompanying effects on coastal regions.

At the beginning of another hurricane season, we must, as Gov. Bobby Jindal says every year, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. But besides laying in the batteries and bottled water, our leadership — public and private — should make the most of the opportunity to engage other states in discussion of a problem that is not ours alone.

We welcome the initiative of the America’s Wetland Foundation to reach out to Texas and the areas afflicted by Sandy. The people of those regions need to be in the loop.

There’s evidence they are on board: A public opinion poll commissioned by AWF found that a majority of Texans worried about the potential problems of evacuation and emergency response, and virtually all respondents agreed that it is important to invest in the coast to protect Texas ports, inland waterways and other infrastructure.

And in terms of timing, it’s important to realize that major — thus, expensive — projects must be put in train now, before too much time has elapsed in only discussion.

“This is on us,” said King Milling, of New Orleans, foundation chairman. “Our generation must accomplish this if the future is to hold any promise of economic, cultural and environmental viability.”

He is precisely correct, and we have long been grateful for Milling’s leadership on coastal issues. Yet he will be the first to tell you that Louisiana, the poster child for America’s wetlands concerns, will need a broad coalition to achieve the urgent funding needed now, in this generation.