The just-concluded 2017 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature contained good news for the state’s ongoing program to protect and restore the coast.
According to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the approved legislation allows the continuation of established successful efforts while adding new mechanisms to increase productivity and results.
First and foremost, the 2017 update to Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, carried this year by Sen. Morrish and Sen. Alario, passed the House and Senate with unanimous bipartisan support picking up an additional 34 co-authors on the House Floor.
“The Coastal Master Plan was developed using robust scientific and technical analysis with extensive public input,” said Johnny Bradberry, Chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA). “This 2017 update recommends 124 projects, including restoration projects, structural protection projects, and nonstructural risk reduction projects.”
The Coastal Master Plan outlines specific actions to implement an integrated coastal protection and restoration strategy over the next 50 years with projects constrained by a $50 billion total budget. In this fully integrated plan, half of the projects by cost are devoted to restoration and half to protection.
The ecosystem restoration portion includes $18 billion for marsh creation, $5 billion for sediment diversions, and more than $2 billion for other types of restoration projects. On the protection side, the plan allocates $19 billion for structural protection and $6 billion for nonstructural risk reduction. “It is far wiser to spend money proactively today than spend it on damages later,” said Bradberry.
In addition to passing the 5-year, long-term strategy document, the Louisiana Legislature also passed the CPRA’s Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Plan which outlines the agency’s project priorities for the coming fiscal year as well as providing a three-year outlook. This year, the CPRA Annual Plan was enacted through two resolutions, a Senate Resolution authored by Sen. Morrish and a House Resolution by Rep. Zeringue.
In fiscal year 2018 CPRA will advance the coastal program with $644 million in expenditures on project construction, engineering and design, planning, ongoing programs and initiatives, and the operation and maintenance of previously constructed projects.
The implementation of the goals of the Coastal Master Plan will also be assisted by new legislation coming out of this year’s session that provide CPRA with the ability to utilize new project delivery methods and to explore the bonding of some of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill revenues.
House Bill 596 by Rep. Leger and Rep. Bishop allows a new contracting mechanism to help get projects constructed earlier. House Bill 618 by Rep. Garofalo also has the potential to expedite Coastal Master Plan project implementation. House Bill 144 by Rep. Jerome Zeringue also aids the accomplishment of coastal projects by allowing public entities to enter into fixed-term agreements with private property owners for servitude and easement rights.
Finally, Senate Bill 249 by Sen. Chabert directed the CPRA to dedicate set percentages of its GOMESA revenues for coastal protection projects.