(WVUE) - A poll commissioned by a coalition of environmental groups finds overwhelming support for coastal restoration, including the state’s plans for large-scale sediment diversion projects.
Seventy-nine percent of coastal area voters said they support diversion projects versus only five percent who oppose them, according to the survey by political consultant Greg Rigamer and pollster Bernie Pinsonat.
The poll questioned 809 chronic voters in mostly coastal parishes along the I-10 corridor was commissioned by the National Audubon Society on behalf of Restore the Mississippi River Delta.
"Residents of the coastal area are aware of sediment diversions and overwhelmingly support the concept," Rigamer said.
The support for diversions rose to 92 percent when respondents were told the diversions could build wetlands that would be important hurricane buffers. However, the results do not show how respondents would feel if told the diversions could damage fisheries.
The projects, including the $1.4 billion Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion 20 miles south of Belle Chasse, would feed river water and mud into the marsh in an attempt to mimic nature's land-building capability.
Commercial fishermen, who fear polluted, fresh river water would flow into saltier bays, remain strongly opposed to the diversions.
However, the poll finds even in Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes, home to some of the most vocal opponents, the concept is widely popular.
Among 200 people surveyed in the two parishes, Pinsonat and Rigamer found support for the diversions by a margin of 70-12 percent.
"The bottom line is they're saying whatever it takes, the effort is worth it," Pinsonat said.
49 percent of respondents believe coastal land loss will affect them in the next year, according to the survey, while 77 percent believe they will be affected sometime during the next ten years.
It also shows strong support for dedicated monies for coastal protection and restoration.
Among the findings: 87% supports the state's 50 year, $50 billion Coastal Master Plan; 91% agree state government should ensure funds dedicated to coastal restoration not be spent on something else; and 70% believe the state is spending too little on restoration efforts.
Rigamer and Pinsonat noted the poll comes against a backdrop of questions about whether it is even possible to restore coastal Louisiana to anything resembling the past, and about whether coastal planners are spending the money wisely.
97 percent of those questioned said the state should work to maintain as much of the coast as possible.
"I have not seen many, if any, surveys where 97 percent of the respondents feel so strongly about something," Rigamer said.
The poll, conducted between August 29 and September 5, has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percent.