America’s WETLAND Foundation Applauds BP Settlement

NEW ORLEANS – "The universal rule of nature is what you take from Mother Earth, you must pay back,” Val Marmillion, managing director of America's WETLAND Foundation (AWF), said. “This is justice being served. This damage took place where we are literally losing the equivalent of a football field of land every hour to coastal erosion, the greatest threat to the people and economy of Louisiana."

         The AWF said relief has finally come in the form of an $18.7 billion settlement from BP announced today, the largest of its kind in history, for impacts to ecosystems of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast caused by the most damaging oil spill in U.S. history.

         The Foundation applauded the work of litigants who represented Louisiana's need for an early settlement based on the urgency for coastal restoration. Federal cases can stretch over decades before settlements are reached only exacerbating the original damage and loss to ecosystems. The AWF said The RESTORE Council has shown willingness to focus on the urgency of restoration in the Gulf Coast, which represents opportunity for cooperative solutions between the states and the Federal Government.

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         "The need for the settlement cannot be overstated," Marmillion said. "Coastal areas in Louisiana are facing the constant threat of land loss due to a trifecta of trapped sediments and fresh water from the Mississippi River from leveeing, subsidence and sea level rise. Any act that advances the destruction of our wetlands has to be met with stiff penalties."

         "The Gulf coastal system is the lifeline for our communities, wildlife and commerce," Sidney Coffee, AWF senior advisor, said. "In Louisiana's case, this settlement will serve as a down payment on coastal restoration but must be kept in context. Our coastline has been disintegrating for decades and the oil spill exacerbated that loss. These monies the state will receive will be a good start but billions more will be needed to execute the state's master plan and to save what we can of this coast and the benefits it provides the entire nation."

         Since the massive spill in 2010, scientists have raised concerns about the long-term consequences of the Gulf oil disaster; some are concerned the damage may be irrevocable and that uncertainties about long-term effects may take decades to determine.

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         As part of its mission to build support and seek balanced solutions to coastal restoration, AWF has sought to create public awareness of the need for a strong federal commitment to restoration and for innovative solutions that allow private and public sectors to work together to abate wetland loss. Most recently, the Foundation announced plans to demonstrate the use of recyclable plastics in a "green" project for shoreline stabilization of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway where saltwater intrusion threatens fresh water marshes, communities and habitat. The project, in partnership with private landowners, Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is part of a larger program to encourage greater involvement of private landowners and private sector investment in coastal restoration in areas where environmental and economic interests can be protected but may not be prioritized for public funding.

         The Mississippi Delta off Louisiana's coast hosts the most valuable of natural resources that support the economy of the Mississippi River and the 31 states of America's midland. It is one of the world's largest flyways for migratory waterfowl and songbirds and is central to the lifecycle of 90 percent of Gulf marine life. Healthy wetlands serve as a buffer to damaging storms and their loss increases the risks to coastal populations and communities made more vulnerable by the rising tide. With damage from a major oil spill, wetland loss accelerates, threatening all life.

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