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Document Type

Comment

Abstract

With the passage of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA or Act) in 1972, Congress sought to protect the Nation’s dwindling coastal resources. The Act has been reauthorized several times since, and despite opposition from the Reagan and Bush administrations, it has managed to only be strengthened in its more than thirty years of existence. Ninety-nine percent of the United States coastline is now protected by a state program approved under the Act. Given that each state is responsible for administering its own coastal zone management program, much variety in the effectiveness of these programs has emerged. In the continuing wake of Hurricane Katrina, as mistakes are pondered and solutions proposed, Louisiana’s less than effective use of the Act serves as a useful entry point into an examination of what has gone wrong in protecting Louisiana’s fragile coastline. Louisiana has the most remaining wetlands in the United States and generates a significant portion of the country’s commercial fishery output. Concurrently, the state is losing more wetlands than anywhere in the country and is in danger of sacrificing its vital fishing industry to shortsighted energy development interests. This Comment seeks to establish that an honest, more aggressive use of the federal consistency provision would more effectively protect Louisiana’s coastal resources. This Comment first examines the origin and evolution of the CZMA to illustrate that the Act has been, and will continue to be, an important factor in the management of coastal resources. The fact that Congress has reauthorized and strengthened the Act several times suggests as much. Furthermore, some states have used the Act in a powerful manner to trump what would otherwise be strong federal interests. Included within this section of the Comment are brief analyses of the Act’s reauthorizations, as well as how states develop their individual coastal management plans. Second, the Comment briefly details Louisiana’s use of the CZMA and of its coastal resources, to facilitate an understanding of how the state arrived at its current position. The state has not been as aggressive with its powers under the Act as it could be—the dearth of existing case law suggests it has utilized the Consistency Provision to its fullest extent in a very limited fashion, if at all. Third, other proposed solutions to Louisiana’s coastal management efforts are briefly examined to suggest that the CZMA is one of the best available alternatives at this juncture. Next, Louisiana’s use of the CZMA is compared to that of other, arguably more successful, states. Examples are plentiful, with California, Delaware, Florida, and Washington the most prominent. These states have exerted their authority under the Act to either eliminate or severely limit harmful uses in their coastal zones. Following this analysis, the Comment seeks to address specific obstacles Louisiana may encounter if it endeavors to use the Consistency Provision more aggressively. Finally, the Comment makes recommendations for a more effective utilization of the Act in Louisiana, including blocking future oil and gas lease sales, and raising consistency objections for renewals of federal licenses and permits.

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