U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., celebrated the passage of the act on Monday at Prien Lake Park — part of a five-stop coastal Louisiana tour. (Lance Traweek / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 6:09 PM
At long last, the RESTORE Act has become the law of the land, and with it, the promise of desperately needed funds to begin the massive campaign of saving Louisiana’s endangered coast and wetlands.
The legislation, introduced by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., dedicates 80 percent of the future fines BP will pay for the 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico more than two years ago following the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. The act dedicates the money to restore coastal ecosystems and rebuild local economies.
Depending on a judges’ ruling, the fine amount could range from between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion.
Landrieu estimates Louisiana’s would range between $3 billion and $5 billion.
The act also:
• Provides needed resources and flexibility to Gulf Coast states to start economic and ecological recovery immediately.
• Establishes a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and a Comprehensive Plan for the Gulf Coast focused on ecosystem and coastal restoration.
• Establishes a Long-term Science and Fisheries Endowment and Gulf Coast Centers of Excellence.
But the critical component for Louisiana remains the money.
The state’s Coastal Master Plan, approved in May by the state Legislature, lays out a 50-year undertaking to protect and restore Louisiana’s coastal area.
The plans estimated cost is $50 billion.
The state’s share from BP’s fines won’t come close to covering that amount, but it’s a promising start.
‘‘This coast cannot be saved with nickels and dimes,’’ Landrieu said Monday during a stop in Lake Charles. ‘‘This coast cannot be saved with legislators running down to Baton Rouge asking for $10 million here or $15 million there. That is a losing strategy and one that I will not be a party of. We have to have a real plan that can really save the coast and will have a lot of money behind it — that has the best science in the world behind it.’’
The plan proposes spending nearly $11 billion on projects from the west side of Vermilion Bay to the Sabine River.
The RESTORE Act isn’t the complete answer to funding arguably the most massive restoration project in the history of the world. Landrieu and the rest of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, and their successors, will continually have to make the state’s case for future funding from Congress.
But now, some of that pressure will be shifted to the Coastal Master Plan’s scientists, environmentalists and other planners. They can make the politicians’ task of acquiring more money easier if some of these projects begin to show promising results.
Since the levying of the Mississippi River in the late 1920s and 1930s, the state has lost 1,900 square miles of coastal area, or a land mass larger than the state of Rhode Island.
It doesn’t have that much time to turn the tide in this battle.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.