BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards announced Wednesday his plans to allocate more than $350 million, including $55 million from 2018′s surplus, to Louisiana’s coastal trust fund.
Of the money from the surplus, $15 million will be designated to restoring funds previously swept by the Jindal administration. Edwards also said $30 million in surplus will be used to meet the state’s lands-related commitment, allowing the $760 million West Shore Lake Pontchartrain hurricane protection project to move forward. The last $10 million will go towards expanding restoration projects already underway.
“I made a commitment, that under my watch, coastal dollars would be used for coastal projects. Given the opportunity to return funding that never should have been taken is one wrong I am happy to right,” Edwards said. “The Coastal Trust Fund is one of the few allowable recipients of surplus dollars, and for good reason. The trust fund allows us to leverage the additional $30 million in surplus funds we’re investing today to unlock $760 million in federal funding to provide flood protection benefits for tens of thousands of our people.”
“The West Shore Lake Pontchartrain project study was first authorized in 1971, and the hard working people of this region have been waiting to see progress ever since. When the federal government recently made the full cost to construct the project available to the corps, we were determined to meet the State’s obligations on the lands side as quickly as possible in order to keep this project on schedule, so we can help better protect the people of this region,” said Chip Kline, the governor’s executive assistant for coastal activities.
Edwards also spoke Wednesday about nearly $300 million being allocated for hurricane protection projects over the next three fiscal years that make use of enhanced Gulf of Mexico Security Act (GOMESA) revenue coming into Louisiana.
“In the next 12 months alone, over $120 million in GOMESA revenues will be expended to help protect over 2 million Louisianians who live and work along our coast. These investments represent a proactive mindset by the State of Louisiana and CPRA, allowing us to better defend against a hurricane or natural disaster and showing the citizens of our state we cannot and will not wait on someone else to provide us the protection we deserve,” said Edwards.
Also Wednesday, Edwards announced Kline as the new executive assistant for coastal activities and board chair of the Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority (CPRA).
“I recognize and appreciate the opportunity the governor has given me, and I also recognize the incredible responsibility that comes with this job. The protection and restoration of Louisiana’s coast is an effort for the ages, and its undertaking is bigger than all of us, yet it affects each and every person living in this state. I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of and with the people of Louisiana, and I remain committed to leaving a coast that our children and grandchildren can cherish as much as we all do,” said Kline.
GOMESA Projects for Fiscal Years 2020, 22021, and 2022:
- $22 million in GOMESA revenues will be used to build or improve levees and critical components of the Morganza to the Gulf Hurricane Protection System in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes through the North Lafourche, South Lafourche, and Terrebonne Levee Districts
- $11 million to build levees and provide critical flood protection to Jean Lafitte in the Rosethorne basin area
- $10 million for levee repair work in Grand Isle
- $35 million for a critical pump station in Bayou Lafourche that will provide freshwater to the marshes in Lafourche Parish
- $75 million to complete the design and fully construct the Bayou Chene flood control/storm surge flood gate located in St. Mary Parish, and while located in St. Mary Parish, this structure will help protect St. Mary, Terrebonne, Iberville, Lafourche and Iberia parishes
- $7.5 million drainage canal relocation as part of the New Orleans to Venice hurricane protection system in Plaquemines Parish
- $9 million to design the Slidell ring levee in St. Tammany Parish
- $12.5 million for the Sunset, Magnolia Ridge, and Davis pond levees as part of the Upper Barataria Risk Reduction System in St. Charles, Assumption and St. James Parishes
- $11.7 million for Goose Bayou (Penn Levee) in Jefferson Parish
- $1.5 million on 100-year Levee Lift: NOV-NF-W-4, Oakville to LaReusitte and MRL 179 (ED) in Plaquemines Parish over three years
- $2.5 million for Kellog Pump Station T-Wall in St. Charles Parish over three years
- $57.4 million for the Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex in Terrebonne Parish over three years
Click here for more information on the projects.
In response to the governor’s announcement, several organizations and public officials released statements.
America’s WETLAND Foundation applauded the move, saying, in part, "The dollars will now go where they were meant to go - to critically needed coastal restoration projects.
In addition, the governor’s designation today of more than $300 million through GOMESA funds to hurricane protection projects will go far to keep residents and critical infrastructure safe in coastal communities.
We heartily endorse Governor Edwards' appointment of Chip Kline to head his Office of Coastal Activities and to chair the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority board. His choice should bring a sigh of relief to all advocates of coastal Louisiana. Kline brings the knowledge, experience and balance needed now to steady the coastal program and navigate the challenges that lie ahead. The governor is clearly standing strong for our coast and putting his commitment where the urgency for action is. It is good day for Louisiana."
The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association (LMOGA) also responded positively to Edwards' announcement.
Congressman Garret Graves responded as well, saying, in part, "People in the River Parishes are finally going to get the flood protection they deserve. The train, as the saying goes, is leaving the station. We commend the state, Pontchartrain Levee District, St. John the Baptist Parish, St. James Parish, and St. Charles Parish for their leadership in leveraging state funds to advance the West Shore Project, and for the state’s leadership in potentially leveraging another critical flood project in the Amite River Basin.”