The US Interior Department announced last week $256 million in new federal funds to restore vital wetlands and parks along the Gulf coast that were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. More than 118 square miles of wetlands and marshes on the southeastern Louisiana coast were turned into open water by the twin hurricanes last year. If wetlands are not restored, nearby communities are at increased risk from future storms…
A self-sustaining wetland ecosystem would act as a protective barrier for both wildlife and human populations.
President Bush signed legislation last month providing the $256 million for Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida. The funds are in addition to $70.3 million provided in Dec. 2005
Combined, the two appropriations provide a total of $162.4 million to restore national wildlife refuges; $74.4 million will help national parks, which also were hard hit; $31 million to assist the Minerals Management Service, which had to relocate its regional headquarters; and $15.5 million to enable the U.S. Geological Survey to replace stream gauges and other vital water monitoring equipment. The appropriations also include $43 million for grants to states for historic preservation.
The funds are being used to remove debris and clear canals; repair levees, docks, bridges, roads, campgrounds, and trails; restore damaged or destroyed buildings; replace lost equipment, vehicles, and boats; and restore damaged cultural artifacts. The restoration funding also will generate millions of dollars in purchases and create thousands of jobs to help revitalize the regionâ€™s economy.
Louisiana contains 45 percent of the nation’s coastal wetlands, including 10 national wildlife refuges and one national park, covering more than 310,000 acres.