For Immediate Release: March 17, 2010
Contact: Chris Macaluso
CPRA Approves Resolution for 2011 Annual Plan, Talks Diversions and Levees at Monthly Meeting
BATON ROUGE -- The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority discussed changes to its Draft Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Plan, diversions on the lower Mississippi River and levee decertification at its monthly meeting Wednesday in Baton Rouge.
The Authority's first order of business was to adopt a resolution to approve the Fiscal Year 2011 Coastal Annual Plan provided a short list of changes are made to the draft plan that was released in late January.
Kirk Rhinehart, planning branch director for the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, explained the various changes being made to the plan in the next two weeks before it is printed and distributed. The changes reflect comments from the Authority, public comments and minor changes to project development schedules and funding.
Once finalized, the plan will be submitted to the state legislature for approval during the upcoming regular legislative session.
Additions to the final plan will include an appendix listing project proposals to be built using Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and additional information regarding the prioritization tool being developed to determine how limited restoration and protection funds will be directed.
"There was particular interest expressed by parish and local officials about the CDBG projects that have been proposed and the final draft of the plan will contain much more detail," Rhinehart said. "Those projects will still have to be approved by our federal partners for allocation and construction, but we are working to develop them in anticipation of their approval."
The final plan for 2011 will also contain additional information about non-structural flood protection which includes the elevation of homes and improved evacuation routes. State coastal officials will continue to work with the Center for Planning Excellence to develop a Land Use Toolkit that will be incorporated as part of the 2012 update to the State's coastal Master Plan.
And, the section of the plan on reforming the federal processes by which water resources projects are developed and funded will be edited to reflect the content of the White House's Gulf Coast Roadmap for Restoring Ecosystem Resiliency and Sustainability that was released in early March. The plan will also be adjusted to reflect additional funds for restoration projects that were included in President Obama's proposed budget for the fiscal year 2011.
"The president's proposed budget contains about $19 million for new-start construction restoration projects in Louisiana and we needed to change state funding allocations to make sure there were the necessary funds available to match additional federal dollars," Rhinehart said.
The annual plan discussion was followed by a lengthy presentation by officials from the Corps of Engineers regarding the impacts of diversions on the lower Mississippi River and the advancement of several large scale coastal restoration projects in the Louisiana Coastal Area Study that were Congressionally-approved in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act.
Dr. Barb Kleiss with the Corps' Engineering Research and Development Center, discussed with the Authority the lower Mississippi River's ability to deliver the kinds of sediments needed to begin rebuilding coastal marshes and sustaining the coastal ecosystem. Several small, medium and large scale diversions are being planned for the lower river to deliver both sediment and freshwater to areas that are now isolated from the river by levees and jetties.
Kleiss explained that extensive sediment analysis of the river below the Old River Control structure is needed to determine the best locations for these diversions to maximize the sediments delivered. She added that because of man-made and natural distributaries along the lower river that reduce velocity in the main channel and the maintenance of the navigation channel, much of the heavy sands needed to build and sustain land aren't carried to the lowest reaches of the Mississippi.
"We see a lot of fine clays in the river below New Orleans while we see much more heavy, bed-load materials 300 miles from the river's mouth," Kleiss said. "It's possible for a grain of clay to be suspended in the water for as much as 1000 years. Those lighter materials are more susceptible to be re-suspended by wave action from storms or simply carried out to deep water."
Kleiss said the Corps is working as quickly as possible to gather accurate sediment data to advance diversions like the one planned at Myrtle Grove, which was approved for construction by Congress in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act.
The Authority followed that discussion with one of levee decertifications and flood map elevations with Robert Fitzgerald, a levee safety officer with the Corps' Vicksburg Division and Larry Voice from FEMA.
Communities across the country that are protected by levees that historically provided a 100-year level of protection are facing crippling insurance costs and exorbitantly expensive levee improvements if the their levees are deemed too low based on criteria adopted by the Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The problem is particularly acute in South Louisiana because many communities are still facing the high costs of recovery from four hurricanes in the past five years, said Authority Chairman Garret Graves.
"State levee authorities and local communities are going to be drained of funds and so is the Corps if we can't find a way to resolve this and get these levees inspected and certified," Graves said. "Whatever the Corps can do to provide us with some help in dealing with the transition from the old criteria to the new one would be appreciated."
Graves said he would be meeting with Corps officials in Washington D.C. Thursday to discuss the issue.
For more information about Louisiana's ongoing coastal restoration and hurricane protection efforts, please contact Chris Macaluso at (225) 342-3972 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.