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The Joys of Art

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Keep at it Governor Blanco

Stay on their asses...

Rebuild our shock absorbers
Louisiana's leaders at home and in Washington, as well as this newspaper, have been sounding the alarm about our coastline for years, begging Congress and the Bush administration to provide the resources needed to address decades of erosion caused by human activity as well as natural forces.

We said the stripping away of our coastal marshland left our area naked to the onslaught of hurricanes. We said communities would be battered, oil and gas networks would be shut down, and lives would be lost.

Today, there is no comfort for us in the phrase, "We told you so.''

The price tag for protecting this region was $14 billion. Does anyone think that price is too high now? Just last month, however, the Bush administration was actively fighting even modest efforts to start the flow of money, $540 million over the next four years, provided in the energy bill. Despite White House opposition, Congress approved that start. Last month, that seemed like progress. This month, it seems like a cruel joke.

The needs of this region after Hurricane Katrina are legion. We have roads, bridges, levees, utilities and public buildings to rebuild, as well as homes, businesses and places of worship. Lives must be rebuilt, too, bit by bit. But we must not forget, in this maelstrom of reconstruction, that our coast needs to be rebuilt, too.

The fact that Gov. Kathleen Blanco's team already is talking about how coastal restoration fits into the larger picture is entirely on target. Our coastal marshes and barrier islands are Louisiana's shock absorbers. The fact that they are in pieces surely was a factor in the degree of damage Katrina did. True, this storm was a brutal monster, a strong Category 4, but scientists have been warning that even lesser events would be punishing, given the increasing vulnerability of our land to the Gulf of Mexico.

We need our bridges and buildings back, our livelihoods and our lives. But we also need our coastal wetlands back; we've been losing them for a long, long time. We shouldn't have to convince anyone of that now.

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