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Worth Saving 

I love to hunt and fish. There's something about being in the marsh, or in a swamp, that speaks to me. Out there, everything makes sense.

But something's happening to our marshes that makes no sense, and it's breaking my heart. In recent years, many of my old fishing holes have disappeared. Others are close to vanishing. Among these places are the cove where my 22-year-old son Brandin caught his first redfish 15 years ago. I've always treasured that memory, and I recall it every time I pass that spot. But it's almost gone now. In a few years, it will be gone completely.

We've all heard about coastal erosion. But until you go places that you've known all your life, places that speak to your heart, and see them disappearing before your eyes, you can't really know the depth of the problem.

The loss of Louisiana's coast is much more than an &179;erosion&178; problem. It's a national disaster that is unfolding day by day, minute by minute. It is an environmental, economic, engineering, flood control, educational, political and cultural tragedy.

The problem is worst in southeast Louisiana, from the eastern stretches of the Biloxi Marsh in St. Bernard Parish to the southern stretches of Plaquemines, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. In the past 75 years, we've lost more than wetlands. We've lost whole communities. We've lost cultures. And as the land recedes, it threatens our economic and national security.

I recently spent a day in south Lafourche with a group assembled by the Council for A Better Louisiana (CABL). As we drove south on Highway 1 from Thibodaux, we could see first-hand how the land surrounding the highway and Bayou Lafourche got smaller -- and lower -- as we neared Port Fourchon and Grand Isle.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) brings nearly 20 percent of America's overseas oil supply across south Lafourche. In these days of terrorist alerts, I was shocked to see the LOOP onshore facility sitting unguarded along Highway 1, with the marsh washing away behind it. How will that facility be guarded when it's no longer accessible by land?

Much has been said about what causes coastal erosion and what needs to be done to fix it. Frankly, the time to debate causes is long since gone. Besides, we know what caused most of it: leveeing the Mississippi River. Today, the best minds agree that we need to divert much more of the river into the marshes.

That costs money -- more money than Louisiana has. Then again, Louisiana didn't create this problem; the federal government did when it made managing the river a national priority. Now it's time for the federal government to make fixing the consequences of that decision another national priority.

But let's be honest. Presidential candidates, congressman and senators from the rest of the country don't give a damn about me catching fish or shooting ducks. But one day, when there's no oil to heat their homes in the winter, or when gas costs $4.50 a gallon, maybe they'll understand the wisdom of saving Louisiana's coastline.

Maybe then the marsh will make sense to them.

Trouble is, by then it will be too late.

I don't care whom you support in the coming elections. If you think what I've said here makes sense, then make sure you ask the candidates -- particularly those running for president -- what they plan to do to save Louisiana wetlands. They're America's wetlands. And they're worth saving. Time is running out. Day by day. Minute by minute.

click to enlarge The loss of Louisiana's coast is much more than an "erosion" problem. It's a national disaster that is unfolding day by day, minute by minute. - COALITION TO RESTORE COASTAL LOUISIANA
  • Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
  • The loss of Louisiana's coast is much more than an "erosion" problem. It's a national disaster that is unfolding day by day, minute by minute.


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