For Immediate Release: March 18, 2009
Contact: Chris Macaluso
CPRA Discusses Long List of Restoration Projects, Controversial Corps Report at Monthly Meeting
BATON ROUGE -- The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority discussed an extensive list of current and near-term coastal restoration and protection projects being built by the state as well as the recent release of a controversial draft report written by the Army Corps of Engineers at its monthly meeting Wednesday.
Jerome Zeringue, acting director of the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, provided an update of a host of marsh building, beach restoration and shoreline protection projects currently being constructed and those that are awaiting contract awards.
The OCPR is currently building nearly $200 million in projects that, according to Zeringue, will build approximately 4400 acres of wetlands across coastal Louisiana.
Another $190 million in projects are awaiting construction bids which are expected to be awarded over the next two years. Several large-scale projects are being designed as well including a $71 million project to mine and transport sediment from the Mississippi River via pipeline to build marsh in Plaquemines, Lafourche and Jefferson Parish, a $45.8 million project to rebuild beaches in Cameron Parish and another $75 million to restore beaches, dunes and marshes in Lafourche Parish in the area between Grand Isle and Fourchon.
Zeringue also detailed the OCPR's efforts to build projects using available federal stimulus package dollars received by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA was granted $170 million in stimulus funds to restore wetlands nationwide. According to NOAA, projects ranging in cost from $1.5 to 10 million will be considered and all projects must be "shovel ready" with construction completed in the next 12-18 months.
"We expect the process to be very competitive to receive this funding since it is a national program," Zeringue said. "We are working with other states along the Gulf Coast to try to get as much money as we can from this program to maximize the funds coming to the region."
The deadline to submit project lists for the NOAA money is April 6. OCPR officials are working to submit Louisiana's list several days in advance of the deadline.
OCPR's Norwyn Johnson followed that discussion with a summary of the OCPR's perspective regarding the Corps of Engineers' draft Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Report which was released earlier this month, nearly a year and a half after the Congressionally-mandated deadline for its completion.
Johnson said state officials are very frustrated and disappointed with the contents of the draft report because it does not contain project recommendations to protect and restore coastal Louisiana despite multiple laws passed by Congress requiring those recommendations. The draft study also lacks an integration of coastal restoration and protection projects, also mandated by Congressional law. And, state officials believe they were left out of the writing of the plan despite assurances from the Corps of Engineers that the state would be a partner in the process.
According to Johnson, state coastal officials worked closely with the Corps for the first six months of 2006 in writing a preliminary plan that contained specific project recommendations. Those included the closure of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet in St. Bernard Parish, a project currently being conducted by the Corps. However, after the submission of that six-month plan, the direction of the plan's content changed because of policy recommendations from the Secretary of the Army's office and the plan no longer contained specific recommendations despite the Congressional mandate.
Johnson said he believes the order to change the report came from officials in Washington D.C., not from the Corps' New Orleans District.
"This is an intentional disregard for the law," said Authority Chairman Garret Graves. "There are many projects we could be building and turning dirt on right now if this report had been written the way Congress mandated and written on time. Now we are years and years behind where we could be."
Graves said state officials are working right now to "pick up the pieces" and move forward on cooperating with the new presidential administration and the Corps to direct the plan back to its Congressional mandate.
The Authority also discussed the river diversion summit hosted by the Corps of Engineers earlier this month. Richard Raynie, the director of the OCPR's Louisiana Applied Coastal Engineering and Science Program (LACES), detailed the three-day summit that involved state and federal officials, a host of coastal scientists, representatives from the navigation industry and non-governmental organizations. The goal of the summit was to discuss river diversions for coastal restoration and the potential impacts.
Authority Chairman Garret Graves said the state's coastal master plan and recent federal legislation contains recommendations and authorizations for a host of river diversions and they must be an integral part of rebuilding Louisiana's coast.
"The Water Resources Development Act that passed in 2007 authorized seven diversions and the state's master plan says we need to take bold steps forward and provide strong leadership in advancing these diversions," he said. "We have no choice but to continue to make progress."
In other business, the CPRA voted to provide $4 million in emergency reserve funds from the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund to advance marsh and beach restoration at East Grand Terre Island in Plaquemines Parish. State planners allotted $26 million in funds from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program to build the project but the lowest construction bid was $28.5 million. The additional $4 million will make up the difference between the cost estimate and the lowest bid and provide additional funds for potential routine cost overruns. Construction is set to begin this summer.
For more information about the CPRA and Louisiana's coastal protection and restoration efforts, please contact Chris Macaluso at (225) 342-3968 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority's mandate is to develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive coastal protection and restoration master plan. For the first time in Louisiana's history, this single state authority will integrate coastal restoration and hurricane protection by marshalling the expertise and resources of the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Transportation and Development, and other state agencies, to speak with one clear voice for the future of Louisiana's coast. Working with federal, state and local political subdivisions, including levee districts, the CPRA will work to establish a safe and sustainable coast that will protect our communities, the nation's critical energy infrastructure, and our bountiful natural resources for generations to come. The CPRA of Louisiana was established by Act 8 of the 1st Extraordinary Session of 2005.