WASHINGTON — A five-state coalition, warning that decades of damage inflicted by man and nature could take a $350 billion toll, called on the White House and Congress on Wednesday to make an urgent commitment of massive, long-term aid to protect the battered Gulf Coast, its fragile ecosystem and its oil, seafood, shipping and tourism industries.
"The Gulf Coast is coming to the end of its borrowed time, I'm afraid," R. King Milling, the chairman of America's Wetland Foundation, said in unveiling a report containing 30 recommendations for coastal restoration from Florida to Texas, estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars at a time of fiscal frugality in Washington.
The report summarizes the results of forums held over 14 months in 11 communities from Florida to Texas in which more than 1,100 local leaders were asked to set aside partisan or parochial differences and join in a common cause.
Its recommendations include calls for urgent federal action to fast-track coastal restoration projects and eliminate conflicting federal policies, and for adopting long-term strategies to defend shorelines against storm surges, such as the wall of water that Hurricane Katrina unleashed on Mississippi and Louisiana in 2005.
Milling criticized Washington policymakers as taking a shortsighted approach to the complex threats, among them hurricanes, oil spills and an overflow of Mississippi River sediment.
Compared to the $140 billion in post-Katrina recovery costs in Louisiana alone, earlier projections of $14 billion for restorations that may have prevented much of the damage look like a bargain, he said. Now, he wrote in introducing the report, Louisiana needs another $50 billion to repair a jagged shoreline that's so long it could stretch coast to coast.