Gulf Coast initiative begins to better prepare for natural and man-made disasters

New Orleans, La. – Communities from Florida to Texas will be asked over the next 18 months about what they want their regions to look like in the future, and how that can be accomplished. At a Plaquemines Parish news conference, foundation chairman King Milling says a coordinated plan must be devised to make the coast resilient to storms, rising seas and disasters, like the BP oil spill.

"If nothing is done, we will be in water today. If nothing is done, the coastline will be touching the levee system on the Mississippi River both north and south of New Orleans - on both the east and the west bank. If nothing is done, we will probably have moved 2 million people or close to it. And we would have lost nearly every town and community within this area."

Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne says the concept will be key for getting support in Washington.

"The results of this work are not going to be simply put on a shelf somewhere. They're going to be used as part of the effort to make certain that America realizes the dangers that it faces just as the coast faces those same dangers."

Mississippi's marine resources spokesman Corky Perret says the Gulf Coast has gotten national attention after disasters, but not the federal dollars it needs. He says the more populated areas like the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and the New England coast get more projects funded.

"I think we are collectively making noise and we are getting more and more attention as we keep forward. And hopefully we'll get enough to get the funding we need to do the job that needs to be done."

The project is backed by Entergy Corporation, which funded a study last year that found the Gulf Coast could sustain $350 billion in damage over the next 20 years if nothing is done. Forums are scheduled from March to July of next year in communities along the coast.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming.