For Immediate Release: May 21, 2008
Contact: Chris Macaluso
CPRA Commits Funds to Helping Advance Hurricane Protection in New Orleans Area
BATON ROUGE -- The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority discussed coordinating efforts with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to advance hurricane protection projects in the New Orleans area as well as state funding obligations for those projects at its monthly meeting Wednesday.
The CPRA agreed to appropriate $2.5 million to help purchase land right-of-ways adjacent to the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal storm surge protection structure being constructed by the Corps of Engineers.
The structure is designed to block storm surges entering eastern areas of Orleans and St. Bernard Parish through the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet with a system of flood gates and levees. A $695 million contract has been awarded for its construction.
The project is authorized to be fully funded by the Corps of Engineers and the state has no obligation to help in the construction phase. However, David Miller, recently appointed the CPRA's director of implementation, told the authority that there is a concern that if the Authority does not assist the Corps by setting aside money to help advance the project it may face delays that would cause it to miss the Corps' 2011 construction deadline.
"Putting aside this money to buy the land near the project is likely the only way for the project to stay on schedule," Miller said.
He added that any money spent by the CPRA to help the Corps would be credited to the total the state owes as matching funds for the construction of the hurricane protection system for the New Orleans area.
An additional $5.8 billion in federal funds for the New Orleans area is contained in a war supplemental spending bill currently being considered by Congress.
Authority Chairman Garret Graves explained that the version of the supplemental spending bill being considered by the U.S. Senate would reduce the state's matching requirement from $1.8 billion to $1.6 billion and give Louisiana up to 30 years to provide the funds. But, the House of Representatives' version would require the state to pay $1.8 billion over the next three years.
"If the version being considered by the House of Representatives were to pass the state would have to direct all funds available for restoration and protection to paying matching funds," Graves said. "This would basically shut down all restoration projects and other protection projects in the state for as much a five years."
Graves, who also serves as the senior advisor to Governor Jindal for Coastal Activities, said the governor's office would continue to work with Louisiana's Congressional Delegation and other Congressmen to try to ensure the passage of the Senate version.
Mike Park, HPS program manager for the Corps' Task Force Hope, provided an update on the status of a litany of projects being designed and built to bring the New Orleans area system up to 100-year storm protection by the 2011 deadline. Included in that list of projects are the closure of the MRGO with a rock structure near Shell Beach in St. Bernard Parish, the awarding of more than 30 contracts to armor levees, storm-proofing 32 existing pump stations in Orleans and Jefferson Parish and the building of five safe houses for pump workers to seek protection during storms.
In other business, Graves informed the Authority of the ongoing integration efforts among the Departments of Transportation and Development and Natural Resources and the Governor's Office of Coastal Activities. Several staff members from D.O.T.D. and D.N.R. and G.O.C.A. will begin working full-time for the CPRA within the next month to advance coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects as quickly as possible with as few administrative expenses as possible.
Graves mentioned specifically that Miller, who currently works in D.O.T.D's Public Works Division and has served on the CPRA's Implementation Team for more than a year, will be the head of implementation. DNR's Chris Knots and David Fruge' will be the head of coastal engineering and the CPRA project manager respectively.
Graves said relocation of staff will not take place until after the 2008 hurricane season to avoid any complications that may interfere with hurricane preparations but expects an integrated office to be established by early 2009.
The Authority also received a report regarding freshwater diversions at Caernarvon, located in St. Bernard Parish, and Davis Pond, located in St. Charles Parish. According to Department of Natural Resources Coastal Scientist Chuck Villarubia, Caernarvon is moving more water and sediment this year than ever, with as much as 8,000 cubic feet per second moving through the diversion siphon and an estimated 700,000 tons of sediment being moved as well. The flow through the siphon was limited to 5,000 cubic feet per second in the wake of Hurricane Katrina because of breeches to levees in the area. With the breeches repaired earlier this year, the diversion can now provide the maximum benefit to area wetlands.
For more information about the CPRA and Louisiana's coastal restoration and hurricane protection efforts, please contact Chris Macaluso at 225-342-3968 or by email at email@example.com.
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