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Governor's Brown Marsh Proclamation

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In the body of this message and attached in PDF format is the Governor's
Brown Marsh Proclamation No. 55 MJF 2000. The Governor's Office is
currently working on an Executive Order which should be issued within
the next couple of days.
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STATE OF LOUISIANA

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT

BATON ROUGE

PROCLAMATION NO.  55 MJF 2000

DECLARATION OF STATE OF EMERGENCY LOSS OF SALTWATER MARSHES

WHEREAS, forty percent (40%) of the saltwater marshes in the contiguous
United States are found in the state of Louisiana; nonetheless,
Louisiana  has lost more than fifteen hundred (1,500) square miles of
marsh since 1930, which is the highest rate of land loss in the nation,
and Louisiana is continuing to lose marsh at a rate of twenty-five (25)
to thirty-five (35) square miles a year;

WHEREAS, saltwater marshes are vital to the state of Louisiana as both a
critical component of the state's coastal wetland ecosystem and a first
line of defense in the state's coordinated  system to protect coastal
communities against harm from storm surges and hurricanes;

WHEREAS, during the spring of 2000, state and federal officials made the
alarming  discovery of the "brown marsh phenomenon," an unusually
extensive and rapidly spreading browning of the normally lush green
saltwater marsh grass Spartina alterniflora, known more commonly as
oyster grass or smooth cordgrass (hereafter "marsh grass");

WHEREAS, a collaborative team of state and federal officials and
university scientists, coordinated by the governor's executive assistant
for coastal activities,  promptly mobilized to determine a) the extent
of the affected marsh area, b) whether the phenomenon is spreading, c)
the causes of the phenomenon, d) the possible short-term protective
measures and long-term remediation and/or recovery strategies, and e)
the possible funding sources for research and remediation to prevent the
reoccurrence of the phenomenon;

WHEREAS, the collaborative team determined that the saltwater marsh area
in the state of Louisiana primarily affected is located between the
deltas of the Atchafalaya River and the Mississippi River in the
parishes of Lafourche, Terrebonne, Jefferson, and Plaquemines, centering
in the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary (hereafter "Estuary"), a
fragile wetland area containing approximately 390,000 acres of saltwater
marsh, of which about 110,000 acres is severely impacted and about
150,000 acres is moderately impacted;

WHEREAS, of the severely impacted saltwater marsh acreage in the
Estuary, at least 17,000 acres of marsh grasses has already converted
from dense vegetation to open mud flats with little or no vegetation and
without roots to hold the land together and prevent erosion;
consequently, it is likely that Louisiana's already staggering rate of
annual land loss will be greatly exacerbated;

WHEREAS, although the investigations of the collaborative team are still
on-going, preliminary findings indicate the likely cause of the
phenomenon is a lack of fresh water flow resulting from record drought,
record high temperatures, abnormally low water levels in the Mississippi
River during the spring, and unusually low summer tides, the combination
of which severely compounded the long-term effects of the nation's
extensive levee system, which alters the natural fresh water flow, on
Louisiana's saltwater marshes;

WHEREAS, the combination of recent events and the nation's levee system
has caused a lack of fresh water and/or periodic flooding essential to
saltwater marshes for replenishing the water table and maintaining the
normal salinity levels of the marshes; and

WHEREAS, the brown marsh phenomenon constitutes a natural disaster, with
potentially catastrophic results, and it has created an immediate threat
to public health and safety, the environment, and public and private
property;

NOW THEREFORE, I, M.J. "MIKE" FOSTER, JR., Governor of the state of
Louisiana, by virtue of the authority vested by the Constitution and the
laws of the state of Louisiana, do hereby order and direct as follows:

SECTION 1:     A state of emergency is declared to exist in the parishes
of Lafourche, Terrebonne, Jefferson, and Plaquemines (hereafter
"parishes"), as a result of the "brown marsh phenomenon," an unusually
and rapidly spreading browning of the normally lush green saltwater
marsh grass Spartina alterniflora, which has caused an immediate threat
to public health and safety, the environment, and public and private
property.

SECTION 2:     The state of emergency declared in Section 1 shall
continue in effect until November 1, 2001, unless the state of emergency
is terminated or rescinded prior to that date.


IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have set my hand officially and caused to be
affixed the Great Seal of Louisiana, at the Capitol, in the city of
Baton Rouge, on this 23rd day of October, 2000.


GOVERNOR OF LOUISIANA


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