Austin to DC! Our Members Advocate for the Environment.

Activism works and the small actions of many people combined makes a huge difference on policy issues in Washington, DC. That’s one of the lessons I learned at the National Audubon Society Office in chilly DC on Monday, March 20th. Along with Sharon Flournoy, also a Travis Audubon member, as well as twelve other people from Audubon chapters from Idaho to Florida, I spent the day in back-to-back workshops, and a “bootcamp” to get us up to speed with the critical situation of the Mississippi River Delta.

The Mississippi River Delta was created over a period of 7000 years through a process in which the river, in the manner of a hose spraying back and forth, deposited sediment along the delta, over thousands of miles, creating extensive marshlands and protective barrier islands.

In the 1930s, we humans stepped in and built levees and dams, forcing the river to hold to a single course so we could navigate the waters predictably and control flooding. Natural erosion destroyed barrier islands and suddenly the river could no longer re-build them. The same happened when hurricanes, notably Katrina and Rita, hit the coast. And then there was the BP oil spill. Is it any wonder that 1.2 million acres of coast line have been lost in the last eighty years? That’s the size of the state of Delaware.

But there is hope. National Audubon Society and other like minded organizations have created a master plan that will use a multi-pronged approach, based on science, to restore the delta. If you’d like to learn more about it, I encourage you to check out the Restore The Mississippi River Delta website.

Our politicians wanted to hear what the Texas hook was. Well, the oil and gas industries have a lot of infrastructure in that area in terms of oil rigs and platforms, and without adequate marshland to protect them, the storm surge from hurricanes or tropical storms does a lot of damage. But, for every 3 miles of marshland, storm surge flooding is reduced by a foot. Finally, a solution that environmentalists and big industry agree on!

After the intense training, the fourteen of us went to the Hill to speak with our respective Congress people.  I found them (and their staff) pleasantly receptive to supporting the Mississippi River Delta restoration plan. I am not naïve enough to believe that my one conversation will lead to their unconditional support for including the Mississippi River Delta in the next Infrastructure Bill, but if YOU will add your voice to mine, that will make a difference.

Christy Esmahan is a Travis Audubon Member and award-winning environmental author.

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