Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

March 2018 Prez Sez

Wetlands loss, sea-level rise, and the Trump infrastructure plan

There is a story in the NY Times on February 24th discussing the loss of wetlands in Southern Louisiana, and equally as importantly, the plight of the inhabitants of small towns being surrounded by bayous instead of marshy wetlands.  The focus is on a hamlet called Jean Lafitte, whose 7000 citizens want to stay. They are within sight of the levees protecting New Orleans, but their only recourse is to move.  So far, they refuse.

They have salt water intrusion because of subsidence, rising sea levels, and erosion from hurricanes and other storms.  There are on their own because it is estimated that it would cost about $1 billion to protect 7000 people.  Southern Louisiana has lost wetlands equivalent to the state of Delaware, more than 2000 square miles, since 1932.

If this sounds familiar, it should.  During the last election, the mayors of Miami and other South Florida cities wrote to Marco Rubio when he was seeking re-election telling him he needed to start a conversation on rising sea levels and how to protect their cities.  He did not.  Hurricane Irma, last September, sent flooding waters into the streets of Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, and flooded the subways in New York City.  

So, what is the solution? Infrastructure surely is part of it.  But not with the Trump $1.5 trillion infrastructure budget.  He proposes a $200 billion in federal outlays in ten years, with states and localities putting up $4 for every $1 of federal money.  Lots of money is expected from private interests.  

Raising taxes in Republican-led states to fund infrastructure will be a hard sell.  Many politicians were elected with the aim of lowering budgets, and taxes.  And what would be the incentive for private enterprise to fund infrastructure projects?  They are profit motivated, and so would be more likely to build roads for an expensive development than, for example, a water treatment facility or roads and bridges. That is, unless they were offered the opportunity to own and operate these facilities.

And then, they could charge whatever they wanted, and we would be stuck.