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Garcia said Texas is more geared toward reacting to calamities rather than planning proactively, and that a full assessment and discussion of the coast is "long overdue."
Texas has no such plan for its 367 miles of coastline, though AWF managing director Val Marmillion said his organization aims to help change that. He argued that Texas can't afford to be without a coastal plan in the face of coastal erosion, growing coastal populations, rising sea levels and the increased likelihood of catastrophic storm damage as a result.
Texas has taken the first steps toward promoting coastal resiliency with a report from the General Land Office, "The Texas Coast: Shoring Up Our Future," which aims to highlight the coast's value and vulnerabilities.
Marmillion said Patterson's staff asked AFW "to get more involved in Texas."
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He said a shift in perception is necessary for Texas to take the steps necessary to prepare its coast. AWF's Louisiana campaign over a five year period led to a massive increase in the number of residents statewide who viewed coastal restoration and protection as the "issue of their lifetime," Marmillion said.
Another compelling financial reason to have a coastal plan has to do with federal grants more likely to flow to states such as Louisiana that have made progress in prioritizing projects, he said.
AWF already has a relationship with the state: The organization's "America's Energy Coast" initiative in 2005 was a Gulf wide project that included leadership forums in South Padre Island, Corpus Christi, Omega Seamaster 1957 Galveston and Houston focusing on coastal resiliency.
Marmillion thinks Texas will be a little more challenging. A symptom of the state's disconnect from its coast, he noted, is the ongoing legislative fight over whether all Texans or just coastal residents should have to pay in the event of catastrophic storm damage.
The survey was revealing, Marmillion said, in that 62 percent of respondents characterized Texas as a "state with a coast" versus 38 percent who considered it a "coastal state." Of the coastal residents polled, Omega Seamaster Professional Automatic
Louisiana," Marmillion said.
the split was 51 percent and 49 percent, respectively.
The study concludes that the coast is already vulnerable to growing environmental risks and predicts that cumulative losses will total more than $350 billion by 2030, driven by increased development along the coast and coastal subsidence land loss.
Foster's initiative was based on a comprehensive study of the Bayou State's disappearing coast. The result was the America's WETLAND Foundation, founded in 2002. Non governmental groups represented by the Environmental Defense Fund and industry represented by the president of Shell Oil joined Foster in announcing the "Campaign to Save America's WETLAND."
"This brings the velocity of water closer to your population center," he said. "Even a more moderate storm like Katrina, if water hangs around long enough it has the potential to do a lot of damage."
The first step was a random sample of 689 Texas residents, including 200 coastal residents, commissioned by AWF in December. The margin of error for the survey, conducted by The Kitchens Group, was 4.4 percent with a 95 percent confidence level.
"We said we can invest some of our foundation's support there and begin to build an effort like we did in Louisiana," Marmillion said.
Some good news is that, according to the AWF survey of Texas residents, 86 percent of those polled equated a healthy coastal environment with a strong economy. In Louisiana, it's 91 percent.
Influenced by such widespread support, the Louisiana Legislature by an 81 percent margin passed three constitutional amendments providing funding and support for coastal restoration.
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The "blue ribbon" forums were chaired by Brownsville native and former Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Commissioner Buddy Garcia, and attracted the likes of General Land Office Commissioner Jim Patterson.
Former TCEQ Commissioner Garcia said placing all the burden on coastal residents while disregarding the coast's contributions to the state is "somewhat shortsighted" and unsustainable in the long run.
"Then the Legislature kicked into gear and unanimously passed a coastal master plan," Marmillion said.
The study concludes that the Gulf coast "faces significant risk from climate change" in the form of increased threat from hurricanes. Marmillion said future hurricanes won't necessarily be more powerful, but that the impact could be greater.
AWF's efforts led to a comprehensive coastal restoration and protection plan to deal with current and future threats. The "protection" label was added after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"Either you're a state or you're not a state," he said. "At the end of the day, Texas . has a very proud tradition of being strong for Texas. If you're going to be doing a carve out of the coast it's not going to work.
compare against the risks, I am not sure this accomplishes much but passing the focus to disaster recovery instead of prevention and smart development," he said.
Marmillion thinks attitudes will change as more Texans come to realize that the state's coastal assets ports and the agricultural and oil and gas industries they support, for instance are key to the state's economic strength. AWF's theme for the current campaign is "Strong Coast, Strong Texas."
The issue is at the center of the debate over the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association's claims funding structure.
Conservation group argues for comprehensive plan
AWF's job in Louisiana was made somewhat easier by a connection, based on the energy industry, which already existed between the state's inland and coastal parishes.
"The one thing that troubles everyone is most Texans don't see themselves as a coastal state," Marmillion said. "Even Houston doesn't itself see as a coastal city. They see themselves as an industrial city. That's dangerous in a way because then people don't value their assets and they don't prepare for some of the changes that are coming to the coast."
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