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FEMA Director James Lee Witt Delivers Remarks on Beach ErosionAired June 27, 2000 - 10:29 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We have been waiting this morning for James Lee Witt, the director of FEMA, live in Washington, to talk more about this beach erosion study that has just been announced by the federal government. It could have serious impact on a number of different shorelines in the country.
We'll listen now to James Lee Witt.
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JAMES LEE WITT, FEMA DIRECTOR: ... the building codes and standards.
The states like North Carolina have set-back requirements and are leading the way in the fight against property loss due to erosion and through the assistance of FEMA's Project Impact, areas like New Hanover County are taking the right steps towards halting the effects of erosion as well. Officials there bought an area of beach that had been destined for housing development. They made the decision, not allow any building on that partial, because over the next decade or two, it would likely suffer from erosion.
In South Carolina, again, with assistance from Project Impact, Charleston County officials and volunteers have installed sand fencing to encourage the formation of dunes. After six months when the dunes have begun to take shape, volunteers will plant native vegetation to stabilize a new dune system.
Programs like these are taking place in other states and are helping to mitigate losses from erosion. But the report makes clear that more needs to be done and let me be clear, though the information we're giving you today is sobering, I am not trying to paint a doomsday scenario. We know that the coastline is ever-changing and that global warming and global climate changes is having its effect on its shape and size.
We also know that more and more Americans are moving to high risk areas and building in those areas. This report highlights the need for all of us to begin to make decisions, smart decisions about what we are going to do to protect our natural resources because we all know that if we protect those then they will protect us.
In closing, let me say this, in the Louisiana coastline, the ocean wetlands in Louisiana, working with the state of Louisiana University in Louisiana, they're losing 25 square miles of ocean wetlands a year. That is equivalent to losing a size of a football field every 15 minutes of coastal wetlands. This is wetlands that protect the coastline from storm surges, from hurricanes.
So, again, we have to do more in protecting those valuable resources if we expect them to protect us. So, thank you again for coming and I will turn the podium over to Dr. Bill Merrill (ph), of the Hind Center (ph), and when he is finished we will both be happy to answer any questions -- Bill.
HEMMER: All right, James Lee Witt, the director of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, releasing the results of a federal study about beach erosion in several different parts of the country. Basically, the government is warning now that over the next 60 years time, a quarter of the buildings within 500 feet of many of the nation's coastlines could be threatened by erosion.
A number of factors contributing to this, not only erosion, but also the population strains, the construction strains, moving in these different areas, and also the weather conditions and patterns that we have seen lately and the patterns that are predicted over the next several years.
Now to give you a better idea of what we are talking about here, we have a few maps here that we can show you. Basically, we are talking about the Atlantic coastline as well as the Great Lakes in the upper Midwest, in addition to that the Gulf of Mexico; specifically the southeastern shoreline of Texas and serious erosion considerations on the Pacific coast as well. That is what we have, the latest word out of Washington about the erosion story.
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