Residents join conversation on coastal restoration

By By John Guidroz / American Press

About 150 people, including local officials and residents, gathered at the Lake Charles Civic Center on Tuesday to voice their

concerns to state and federal officials about the condition of Southwest Louisiana’s eroding coastline.

The Conversation about Coastal Restoration and Hurricane Protection brought together officials with several agencies, including

the Army Corps of Engineers, Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Natalie Snider, a senior scientist for CPRA, said one point the panel heard repeatedly from the public was getting rid of

bureaucracy and “layers of regulations to fix something that is in a state of emergency” like the coast.

Several members of the panel discussed

the RESTORE Act, which dedicates 80 percent of the Clean Water Act

penalties to coastal

restoration, along with the 50-year coastal restoration master

plan, which includes several projects to build up the coastline

in Southwest Louisiana.

Laurie Cormier, assistant planner and

coastal zone manager for Calcasieu Parish, said the goal of the informal

event was to

bring together Southwest Louisiana residents and have them

identify with each other’s coastal struggles and get young people

interested in coastal restoration.

Public comments

Daniel Castoriano said federal officials did not show the same urgency in restoring Southwest Louisiana’s coastline following

Hurricane Rita as they did for Southeast Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina.

Carolyn Woosley said leadership on the local level is critical for state and federal agencies to understand the need to restore

Southwest Louisiana’s eroding coastline.

“We need to understand (that) things don’t come to our part of the state,” she said. “They don’t know that we have a need

because we haven’t spoken up. We need a change in perspective.”

David Richard, executive vice president of Stream Wetland Services, said the state should not have to wait 50 years before

seeing results from the master coastal restoration plan.

“Our timing is of extreme essence, and we have to move forward,” he said. “We cannot afford to go through this same process

of long feasibility studies that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to get done.”

Paul Ringo said he has been involved with environmental activities in the region for nearly 30 years. He asked the corps about

responding to public concerns about coastal issues.

“For 25 years, we’ve been submitting comments on Corps of Engineer projects, (and) we’ve never had one response,” he said.

“After all this time, I don’t know who the Corps is responsible to.”

Several agencies sponsored the event,

including the Calcasieu, Cameron and Vermilion Parish police juries, the

city of Lake

Charles, the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon

Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Lonnie G. Harper

& Associates, Inc. and the Chenier Plain Restoration and

Preservation Committee.