For Immediate Release: April 23, 2008
Contact: Chris Macaluso
CPRA Discusses Host of Restoration Projects and Morganza-to-the-Gulf Review Panel at Monthly Meeting
BATON ROUGE - The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority announced the construction of a shoreline protection project for St. Charles Parish and the formation and members of a technical review panel to evaluate the current alignment of a planned hurricane protection system for the Houma area at its monthly meeting Wednesday at the Department of Natural Resources Building.
The CPRA and St. Charles Parish signed a Memorandum of Understanding that allows the state to advance $2.3 million from the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund to the parish's Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) fund. The advance will allow the parish and the Department of Natural Resources to combine efforts and begin construction of a shoreline protection project in Lake Salvadore. Because of the advance, DNR will be able to begin processing the construction bid package as early as the end of this month instead of having to wait until December 2008 or early 2009.
"This kind of cooperation between the CPRA and the parishes represents the kind of innovative thinking it's going to take on our part to advance the restoration and protection of our coast as quickly as possible," said CPRA Chairman Garret Graves.
CIAP is a program established by the Department of the Interior that will allot $510 million to the state over the next four years to offset the impacts of offshore oil and gas production. The state will receive 65 percent of the funds while the 19 coastal parishes receive 35 percent.
St. Charles Parish is expecting to receive $1.5 million from CIAP this year and will return the $2.3 million to the CPRA fund when addtional CIAP funds are released in 2009.
The CPRA then discussed the formation of a technical review panel to evaluate Morganza-to-the Gulf, a 72-mile system of levees, locks and flood protection gates designed to provide hurricane protection to Terrebonne Parish and lower Lafourche Parish.
The technical review panel will determine if the current alignment will provide the best protection possible to coastal infrastructure while minimizing impacts to wildlife and fishery habitats. Eight scientists with expertise in wetland ecosystems and hydrology from Louisiana and Texas have been selected and will begin meeting in June. Recommendations about the Morganza system are anticipated to be brought to the CPRA approximately six months after the first meeting.
Graves said the state will move forward with developing the system and continue working with the Army Corps of Engineers to advance its construction while the review panel evaluates the project. The system has been authorized by Congress since 1992 but construction has been delayed numerous times.
"This review panel is not designed to slow the building of Morganza-to-the-Gulf," he said. "The panel will work to make sure the protection provided is the best possible. The state is committed to moving forward on this project."
The authority also discussed the potential that several levee systems in South Louisiana, including those in Lafourche Parish, will not be certified to provide 100-year protection when new federal flood maps are issued later this spring. Windell Curole, director of the South Lafourche Levee District and CPRA member said the parishes have a year after new flood elevation maps are presented by FEMA to evaluate and vote to accept or reject the new maps. If the maps are not accepted by the parishes, federal flood insurance would be unavailable for new structures built behind uncertified levees and in areas deemed flood prone by the maps.
Graves said the state is asking the federal agencies for leniency and time for the various levee districts to work to improve and raise levee systems before new structures and possible existing structures lose eligibility for federal flood insurance.
"These levees are being deemed uncertifiable because the standards from the federal government have changed, not because the structures themselves are in bad shape or aren't working," Graves said. "The governor is asking there be an interim period between the issuing of the new flood maps and the loss of flood insurance to allow the state to work with FEMA and the Corps of Engineers to provide the necessary protection to avoid all of the issues with mortgages and the loss of economic development in those areas."
In other business, Kirk Rhinehart, administrator of the Department of Natural Resource's Coastal Restoration Division explained the current state of the Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) and how the state is moving forward with efforts to build small-scale restoration projects through the CWPPRA program.
"We're trying to take the CWPPRA Program, that has historically addressed smaller scale projects, and use it and the projects built as a model for the larger restoration projects that we are designing and how we can maximize the efforts among the various restoration programs," Rhinehart said. "We've learned a lot from CWPPRA and it has engaged a lot of people in the effort to restore the coast."
CWPPRA funds have been used to build or develop 142 projects since 1991 with 81 projects already built at a cost of $417.76 million, 14 projects under construction or approved and another five projects waiting for funding. Four projects have been nominated for development this year with $76 million in federal funds anticipated to be available to build the projects with a 15 percent match from state funds.
The CPRA also received an update from the Corps of Engineers about current flood levels and flow rates in the Mississippi River and the amount of water being directed through the Old River Control Structure and the Bonnet Carre Spillway. CPRA officials announced the formation of a science workshop to examine the various effects opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway has on Lake Pontchartrain and how that information can be used to build freshwater and sediment diversion projects on the Mississippi River.
For more information about Wednesday's meeting or the CPRA's efforts to restore and protect Coastal Louisiana, 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