America's Wetland Foundation: Permitting process threatens Louisiana's coast

America's Wetland Foundation: Permitting process threatens Louisiana's coast

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The head of the America's Wetland Foundation warns federal regulations threaten some of the Louisiana coastal areas they are designed to conserve.

"When we say we need urgency, we need urgency from everybody that's involved," said R. King Milling, AWF Chairman..

Milling fired off a letter of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, warning that a cumbersome permitting process threatens to slow restoration efforts.

"Considering the rate of land loss, business as usual isn't working," Milling writes in the letter.

Darcy, the outgoing Assistant Secretary, supervises the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

While Milling praises Louisiana's working relationship with the Corps, he warns "certain regulations, rules and guidelines have been promulgated, which appear sensible but in practice serve to undermine the very aims of conservation, sustainability and environment restoration."

Last week, state officials released the 2017 version of Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan, which state lawmakers will vote on this spring.

The $50 billion plan anticipates spending $18.6 billion on marsh creation and barrier island restoration projects through dredging.

However, critics have long complained a tedious permitting process involving a number of federal agencies-- each guarding their turf-- slows the timetable to approve individual projects.

"What should take 6-8 months sometimes takes, two, three, four years," Milling said in an interview with FOX 8.

Critics argue the process might work elsewhere across the country, but not in Louisiana, which loses land by the the hour.

"Do they apply to something like is happening in Louisiana, which is an on-time disaster and we can see it almost everyday in little ways."

Milling points to a recent study by the Water Institute of the Gulf, Restore the Mississippi River Coalition and Coast Builders Coalition that finds delays in creating wetlands and ridges in open water with dredge material could balloon costs by 200 to 600 percent.  Additional wetlands erosion drives up costs of projects as does inflation.  The study found delays could effectively devour $5 billion in coastal funding.

"It'll get done, eventually," Milling said, "but in that time, we are losing the battle."

Copyright 2017 WVUE.All Rights Reserved