For Immediate Release: Feb. 27, 2007
Contact: Chris Macaluso
CPRA Welcomes New Members; Urges Army Corps to Move Forward on Protection and Restoration Projects
BATON ROUGE - The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority conducted its first meeting of 2008 and the first under the administration of Governor Bobby Jindal Tuesday in front of a standing-room-only audience at the LSU Ag Center's J. Norman Efferson Hall.
Seven new members of the authority, including newly-appointed CPRA Chairman and Senior Advisor to the Governor for Coastal Activities Garret Graves, were briefed on a variety of coastal restoration and hurricane protection efforts being undertaken by the Louisiana Departments of Natural Resources and Transportation and Development as well as the Army Corps of Engineers.
Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle opened the meeting with a brief presentation, directed mainly at the new members, regarding the steps taken to establish the CPRA and the efforts to write the State's Comprehensive Master Plan for Coastal Restoration and Hurricane Protection, which was unanimously approved by the Louisiana Legislature in April 2007. Angelle stressed the pressing need for the CPRA to work urgently and judiciously.
"The CPRA has more responsibility than any other state board or authority that came before or presently in protecting our coast," Angelle said. "We once thought that $50-$60 million dollars a year to build restoration and protection projects was a lot. But we have to move past that and recognize that we have to make a much larger commitment if we are going to be successful in restoring this coast."
David Miller, Department of Transportation and Development Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Works and Hurricane Flood Protection, delivered a presentation concerning the 2009 Fiscal Year Annual Plan and announced that the public comment period has been extended until March 13, 2008 after being originally scheduled to end March 3.
An annual plan will be presented to the public and the State Legislature in advance of every fiscal year during which projects within the Master Plan will be developed. The annual plan identifies individual projects that are ready to be designed or constructed during the coming fiscal year and the projected cost for each.
"The annual plan provides accountability for this authority," Miller said. "We have to show how we spend the money and be transparent and give clear indications of how we are performing."
Miller said the CPRA Implementation Team has identified close to $1 billion in projects that can be studied, designed or built during the 2009 Fiscal Year, including a collaborative effort with the Army Corps of Engineers to close the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) in St. Bernard Parish. Mike Park, HPS Program Manager for the Corps' Task Force Hope, said the Corps is planning to begin work on an earthen closure of the MRGO in June and plans to have the project complete by December 2008.
Despite the nearly $1 billion in projects identified in the Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Plan that are ready to be worked on, only approximately $144 million in funds are currently available, Miller said.
Graves said that the CPRA Implementation Team is working to expand the scope of future annual plans to include all federal, local and state efforts being undertaken rather than simply identifying state projects.
Park also informed the authority of the progress of hurricane protection efforts in the New Orleans area. Since improvements began to raise the system to the 100-year protection level after the passing of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Park said the Corps of Engineers has been appropriated $7.1 billion and will need another $7.5 billion to finish the project by its scheduled 2011 completion.
President Bush's 2009 Fiscal Year budget asks for $5.7 billion for hurricane protection efforts for the New Orleans area. Currently, the state is required to provide nearly $1.8 billion as matching funds for that appropriation, Park said.
Graves and other authority members urged the Corps of Engineers to move forward with aspects of other projects including the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane protection system for the Houma area. The project has been designed for more than 10 years and is a major component of the Master Plan. It was authorized by the 2007 Water Resources Development Act that was approved by Congress but because the cost of building the system is estimated to be at least 20 percent higher than its original authorization it must be approved again.
"The Jindal Administration is looking to develop a new relationship with the Corps of Engineers that will really show the urgency of protecting South Louisiana." Graves said. "The Corps should be working to advance projects that are universally agreed upon to be beneficial like a lock on the Houma Navigation Canal. Louisiana is ready to go. We will be working on an estimated $18-$20 billion in projects in the next four or five years. We don't have time to be inefficient."
For more information about the CPRA, the State's Comprehensive Master Plan for Coastal Restoration and Hurricane Protection and the Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Plan, please contact Chris Macaluso in the Governor's Office of Coastal Activities 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.