Your e-mails: 'Clean up our wetlands'
CNN.com readers offer opinions on rebuilding wetlands
(CNN) -- Development and storms have eroded much of the coastal wetlands that provide "speed bumps" for approaching storms. CNN.com asked readers whether steps should be taken to rebuild them. Here is a sampling of those responses, some of which have been edited:
We should stop challenging and tweaking Mother Nature. Wetlands should be allowed to return to their normal state. I am not saying just go in and rip people out of their houses and businesses, but we should have a national law that prohibits rebuilding any structure that is damaged by a storm. Over time, this would allow things to return to normal. As far a New Orleans goes, ...this is a golden opportunity to build it higher and smaller, allowing space for floodwaters. Bottom line, taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for some people's foolhardiness.
For years now, people have been intruding into wetlands to live, fish, farm and build. Everything we do near or in a wetland destroys some of the protection we are depending on. Restoration of wetlands, especially in areas like the Mississippi Delta and Atlantic coastal areas, should be a national priority. Stop all development immediately. Buy out developed areas and remove all structures. Give the swamps back to the alligators and fish. Stay out!
FEMA (and taxpayer dollars) should not be used to compensate losses for property built on known flood plains or burn zones. Private risk-based insurance would also become prohibitively expensive, thus making the entire proposition economically unfeasible, which is why these places were never built upon in the old days.
After reading several readers' comments it is clear that some people are missing the point. I think the main reason that these wetlands are being destroyed and eroded is human development. Without our help, nature will not have a chance to rebuild itself. If people think that nature should simply "take its course," would they also agree to let the Western wildfires burn uncontrolled? Most of these fires are naturally occurring and humans have intervened to stop them. Forests require regular, natural burns to stay healthy, so why not let them burn? In the case of coastal wetlands, it would not be wise to ignore the problem and continue coastal development without first assessing the long-term implications. We have obviously done so in the past, now let's try to be more aware in the future.
While a hurricane is a natural cause of wetland loss, the wetland loss from the recent suite of hurricanes would not have been as severe had the wetlands not already been hurt by human activity. In coastal Louisiana, wetland loss is a result of a combination of manmade and natural factors, with the largest single factor being the diversion of the sediment-rich waters of the Mississippi River from its historic flood plain.
I think the restoration decision should be up to the people who live close to the wetlands and who are truly affected by their destruction. Everyone else, including me, who did not even see these wetlands before, should not have a say in whether wetlands should be restored because the answer does not affect us in the same way as the people of Louisiana. Even if it does costs a billion dollars, even $10 billion, between 200 million taxpayers, 50 bucks extra on thousands of tax dollars is not a lot to ask for, if it's needed.
A better environment doesn't have to cost any money at all. Remediation can be expensive if you accelerate it, but all you really have to do, absent persistent pollution, is to let the natural forces reassert themselves. It costs virtually nothing to short-circuit the river-straightening system that caused this problem, and you will save money by not having to maintain that system in the future.
The idea of restoring the coastal wetlands of Louisiana is not a new concept. There are, and have been, numerous organizations working with the local, state, and federal governments, the residents, and the large corporations to find the best way to restore the wetlands while maintaining the economic viability of the region. However, wetlands are lost because of complicated interactions of manmade and natural processes. Scientists are working to understand and quantify how these different mechanisms interact and how much of a role they each play. If we don't understand the mechanisms driving wetland loss, our attempts to restore them has the potential to fail, or even make the problem worse.
Yes, the wetlands need to be rebuilt! It was the actions of human beings, either directly or indirectly, that caused the erosion of our once bountiful wetlands. When man tampers with the ecology that is so carefully balanced by nature, no good ever comes of it. Species of flora and fauna that were once plentiful diminish to the borderline of extinction. An equally terrible scenario occurs when we must undergo the ravages of a tropical storm, tornado, or hurricane and instead of it having to pass over these natural speed bumps, and weaken in so doing; now we are faced with storm surges with no barriers to slow them down. We should immediately write our legislators and insist that new funding be appropriated for the rebuilding of our wetlands.
Wetlands should be rebuilt. Take a look at what man has destroyed in the name of commerce and progress. Wetlands, forest, species all gone in the name of progress and greed. When will it stop?
Wetlands should be rebuilt where possible, and future developers should be more wary of damaging them. There's nothing "unnatural" about rebuilding wetlands, any more than it is "unnatural" to plant trees to try to bring back a damaged forest, or restock polluted rivers with fish. If we don't take active steps to manage and preserve nature, we will only end up "managing" it anyway, in a negative sense, through unrestrained development of land and natural resources.
I am stunned by the ignorance of the people submitting opinions on this issue. Wetland loss in coastal Louisiana is not like in other areas of the country. It is not the same in cause, effect, scope, or scale. It is not caused by nameless "developers" building strip malls in marshes. Wetland loss has been caused by the Army Corps of Engineers channeling the Mississippi for flood control, with the result that all the sediment in the river is being lost over the continental shelf. It's also due to the Corps allowing oil companies to dredge shipping channels through the wetlands, thereby encouraging saltwater intrusion, which kills the marshes. The "developers" in this case are companies that supply oil to the whole country. What we're losing is not just hurricane protection and a few jobs for hunting and fishing guides, but also the breeding grounds that support half this nation's seafood industry. We're losing the buffer that used to filter the Mississippi's waters. The scale, scope and effects are all enormous.
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