Coalition Calls for Faster Restoration of Wetlands Destroyed by Now-Closed Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

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The Times-Picayune

Coalition Calls for Faster Restoration of Wetlands Destroyed by Now-Closed Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

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A coalition of advocacy groups this morning called on the federal
government to double its efforts to restore the wetlands, marshes and
barrier islands that help protect the Gulf Coast from hurricanes.

The MRGO Must Go coalition held
a news conference and media tour to show what it says is slow progress
in restoring wetlands along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet to
protect the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish, two communities
devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

"The more vulnerable coastal communities are to hurricane damage,
the more it costs the federal government--and taxpayers--to help those
communities recover after a storm," said Pam Dashiell, co-director of
the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development.
"Katrina devastated both the Gulf Coast and the U.S. economy, causing
nearly $90 billion in property damage alone."

The severity of Katrina's damage in Louisiana was caused, in part,
by the fact that the state has lost 1/3 of its original wetlands -
about 2,000 square miles -- an area larger than Delaware, the group
said.

"Scientists agree that these lost wetlands could have helped reduce
Katrina's storm surge," said Charles Allen, assistant director of the
Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities
and co-director of the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement
and Development. "Wetlands are 'horizontal levees' that in many cases
are more economical and effective at damage prevention than man-made
vertical levees because they absorb storm energy, slow incoming waves,
wind, and surge waters. It is widely recognized that we urgently need
to restore these wetlands and coastal forests to prevent similar or
worse storm damage in the future."

While the corps now has closed the MRGO, the agency's MRGO Ecosystem Restoration Plan -
which must be completed before it seeks funding from Congress to
rebuild the wetlands and cypress forests that will help protect the
area - won't be completed until March 2011.

"The ongoing corps projects are significant, but there must be a
continued sense of urgency to rebuild the natural deltaic ecosystem,
infrastructure and the Mississippi River navigation system," said Col.
David Dysart, chief administrative officer for St. Bernard Parish
government.

"It must be priority number one,'' added St. Bernard Parish
President Craig Taffaro. "The corps should do everything it possibly
can to expedite design and construction of critical restoration
projects.''

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