Picture is from here
By: Michelle Watson
Coastal environmental issues have long been a problem in the U.S. Marine biologist and famous science writer Rachel Carson informed the world about the environment and what to do to protect it. However, enforcing policy on these problems did not become as apparent until the 1970’s, specifically under the Nixon Administration.
In the early 1900’s few coastal environmental policies were made. The National Park Service in 1916 made it so that places that were considered historical must be protected so that future children could see. In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act sought to protect birds that migrated from the U.S. to Great Britain and back. In order to hunt birds that are listed in this act you must have a waiver. Some of the birds on the list such as the Mississippi kite and swamp sparrow are birds that live along the coast. This is the first time that we see an effort being made to not just environmental policy but to coastal environmental policy as well.
If we break down coastal environmental policy into episodes, the most significant episode was under the Nixon administration. Environmental policy, laws, and concerns about the environment soared during these times. In 1970 the most familiar environmental agency in the U.S. the Environmental Protection Agency also known as EPA was founded. After that, environmental policy increased significantly. In 1972 the Coastal Zone Management Act was founded. This act allows state government and federal government to work together to keep a watch out on coastal problems. The Marine Mammal Act was passed in 1972 as well in order to protect specifically whales, dolphins, manatees and any other marine mammal in danger. Other environmental acts passed by the Nixon administration include the clean air act of 1970 and the clean water act of 1972.
Why was the Nixon administration so involved with environmental issues though? The reason this may be is because of the historical time period of the 70’s. The 70’s were a period dominated by the hippie culture where people were much more concerned with the environment. For example in 1970, the U.S. celebrated its first Earth Day. This decade was characterized by peace, and love for the environment. With ideas of loving the environment reaching a large pubic, it can be said that it was “cool” to want to save the environment. According to history.com, there were even announcements made during children’s television shows like the U.S. Forest Service’s Woodsy Owl, saying “Give it hoot, Don’t Pollute.” If everyone else is doing it, then more people are going to want to do it as well, making it a social and cultural norm. With the creation of EPA and the Coastal Zone Management Act, we see the Nixon administration caring about the environment more so than their predecessors.
The environmental episode of the later 1970’s and 1980’s were characterized by the flow of coastal environmental policy continued into the next two decades with the creation of the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act in 1976 and the Ocean Dumping Act in 1988.
The coastal environmental episode of the 90’s was contributed by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. This oil spill immediately killed marine animals like orcas, sea otters, eagles and seals. The U.S. government responded by creating the Oil Pollution Act in 1990. This act was a direct result of the Exxon oil spill, requiring if a spill should ever happen again, oil companies should have a plan. To this day, the toxins of oil remain in the waters where this occurred.
The biggest coastal issue affecting Louisiana today is its diminishing coast. Many organizations such as the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, also known as CPRA, have advocated for restoring the Gulf Coast and in some cases telling people that they need to move before the land disappears.
Resorting the Gulf Coast, specifically in Louisiana, has a lot to do with the faulty levees that were created in the 1930’s. These levees made by the government contribute to the loss of land in Louisiana. Before the creation of these levees the water from the Mississippi delta would flood the land and this would create more land, by allowing sedimentation to flow up and rest on the ground. The levees that we have now are not proper levees and are blocking the water that’s coming to make new land. A proper levee would allow water from tributaries to flow throughout the coast. Since the creation of the levees we have now, Louisiana has lost the land equivalent of New York City every 13 years.
There are many benefits to restoring the coast. According to a study done by a group of researchers at Duke University, the benefits of restoring the Gulf Coast include but are not limited to:
- Provides job opportunities in the Gulf Coast region and 32 other states
- Opportunities for well-established firms to utilize underused resources
- Creates work for many firms within the marine construction industry
What we see here is that coastal restoration would not only help biologically by saving the animals that live there and geologically by allowing natural sedimentation to create land, but it would also help the economy. Specifically, cities and parishes along the coast would have more jobs for people. Restoring the Gulf Coast, would help the U.S. too. Louisiana is one of the nation’s leaders in fishing and oil, making it a crucial part of the U.S. economy as well.
The biggest problem with restoring the coast is that is requires money, and a lot of it. Organizations like the CPRA get funding from the government to help with their projects. For example, as of October 3, 2014, Louisiana received 340 million to restore the Gulf Coast. This money is for the coasts that were destroyed during the BP oil spill. But where does the rest of the money come from? People who are opposed the restoration of Louisiana’s coast say that restoring the coast is too much money. People don’t know if the money being used is tax dollars and some people don’t really believe that the coast is disappearing. Without people being informed about what’s really happening to the coast, they’ll never be able to understand what’s at stake. However, if we don’t do something the state of Louisiana’s coast will be forever changed. It will only be a ghost of its former self.