For Immediate Release: Jan. 14, 2010
Contact: Chris Macaluso
Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Officials Highlight Streamlining Accomplishments
BATON ROUGE -- Louisiana has made extraordinary progress in improving the efficiency and increasing the productivity of its coastal restoration and hurricane protection program.
Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Congress appropriated nearly $15 billion in funding for hurricane protection efforts in south Louisiana and the state Legislature invested nearly $800 million in budget surplus funds from 2007-2009. This investment represents a 1,500 percent increase in funding for hurricane protection and coastal restoration projects in Louisiana when compared to funds appropriated before 2005.
Rather than hiring several hundred new state employees to address the surge in funding, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) fundamentally restructured the state's coastal program.
The Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration (OCPR) was established by integrating staff at the Department of Natural Resources that were handling coastal restoration work with those employees at the Department of Transportation and Development who were working to build and maintain hurricane and storm surge protection structures.
For the first time, Louisiana's coastal restoration and protection efforts have been truly integrated, streamlining the building process and ending the disparate attempts by multiple agencies to receive funding for similar tasks. Hundreds of millions of dollars in savings will result from this integration.
"Louisiana is now setting the standard for how a coastal program should be organized" said Garret Graves, Chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. "The efficiency and productivity of our organization is enabling us to do 1,500 percent more work with virtually the same number of people."
Implementation of Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast will represent a total investment of $100 billion or more. Nearly $17 billion in projects are fully financed and underway today constituting one of the largest public works projects in the nation. Billions of dollars in additional funds have been authorized by Congress for construction of projects in the state.
After working closely with the Commission on Streamlining Government, state coastal restoration and protection officials are further developing several initiatives to improve the efficiency of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the newly-created Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration.
The Commission recommended, in its report released January 4, the continued integration of the state's coastal efforts while limiting the number of staff hired and utilizing existing staff at other agencies to handle human resources, finances and budgets, information technology and legal assistance.
The state's coastal program will receive "back office" support from the Department of Natural Resources for accounting and budgetary control, procurement and contractual management, data processing, management and program analysis, personnel management and grants management while receiving legal support from attorneys in the Governor's Office and the Office of the Attorney General. This will eliminate the needs to establish duplicative services -- a new coastal finance division with dozens of new state employees.
State coastal restoration and protection officials estimate approximately $30 million in funds dedicated specifically to coastal restoration and hurricane protection will be saved over a five year period by utilizing personnel already working at other agencies and also working cooperatively with state colleges and universities to conduct research and gather data pertaining to restoration and protection efforts. Those savings will remain in the coastal protection and restoration fund and will be directed toward project development and construction.
The state's coastal efforts include maximizing the use of private companies for planning, engineering, design, construction and maintenance of coastal restoration and hurricane and flood protection projects. Contracts with private firms eliminate the need for extra layers of bureaucracy within state government and limits expensive salaries and benefits paid to state employees.
The Commission also recommended OCPR continue to develop a prioritization tool to help guide funding to the projects that will provide the most benefit.
Working with local landowners, civic leaders, environmental advocates, fishermen and other concerned citizens in regional stakeholder meetings, the OCPR has developed a prioritization tool to identify the best and most efficient opportunities to restore the ecosystem and protect communities from storm surge flooding. The prioritization tool factors in economic activity, employment opportunities, natural resources, locations of homes and businesses, culture, population, constructability and sustainability.
"With an estimated $100 billion-dollar job ahead of us, it is vital that we make the best use of the funds available by building the projects that give our communities and ecosystem the best benefit for the investment," said CPRA Chairman Garret Graves. "Working with our regional stakeholders, the people who know the land and their community best, is helping us determine which projects should be receiving our immediate attention. We are on the right course to build the projects needed to make our diverse and rich ecosystems and communities sustainable and resilient for generations to come."
For additional information, please contact Chris Macaluso at (225) 342-3972 or 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 marshaling the expertise and resources of the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration 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.