State budget cuts may imperil Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast

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Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Head of Planning Bren Haase presents the 2017 Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection Feb. 1. - MATT HOUSTON
  • MATT HOUSTON
  • Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Head of Planning Bren Haase presents the 2017 Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection Feb. 1.

The Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection unanimously recommended adoption of the 2017 Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast Wednesday, but worried possible forthcoming budget cuts could jeopardize some projects.

This year’s plan focuses on flood risk reduction and resilience, and applies new science to existing restoration projects in the state. It includes 120 projects that would build or maintain 800 square miles of land and could reduce expected storm damage by $150 billion over the next 50 years.

Louisiana would spend about $50 billion on the projects through 2067, half earmarked for restoration and the other half to risk reduction.

Projects include diverting sediment from the Mississippi into adjacent basins, dredging sediment to create marshes, and elevating homes in the coastal region.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) is required by law to update its master plan every five years. The 2017 plan is the third since the creation of the authority following Hurricane Katrina. This time, the CPRA is emphasizing early funding.

“Money now is better than money later; projects now are better than projects later,” said CPRA Head of Planning Bren Haase, who presented the 2017 plan to the commission.

But there may not be “money now” to carry out each project. Several commission members expressed concern that looming budget cuts could affect this year’s plan.

The special legislative session will end by Feb. 23, and the authority must submit its final plan to the legislature by April 25. The CPRA would likely have to delay projects crucial to coastal restoration should the Legislature cut their funding, but would not have to redo the master plan with new numbers, according to CPRA Deputy Executive Director Jason Lanclos.

The Restoration Authority is required to match contributions from federal grants. The authority would not be able to obtain certain grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, for example, without appropriate state funding. Grants make up a large portion of the CPRA’s funds, along with mineral extraction charges, and the annual payments from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster settlement.

“We don’t have tremendous clarity on the $50 billion over 50 years,” said Haase. “We assume that those dollars will be there.”

Commission Chairman R. King Milling told State Rep. Jerome Zeringue and the Louisiana Legislature, “It’s on your back,” through a pessimistic smirk after hearing the implications of possible budget cuts.

For more information on the master plan, visit coastal.la.gov.

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