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Residents join conversation on coastal restoration

Last Modified: Thursday, September 13, 2012 1:49 PM

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.

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