Saturday, July 20, 2024

Louisiana coastal restoration agency is on ‘solid ground’ financially

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

Louisiana’s coastal program is “on solid ground” financially for the next several years, with several large projects making significant progress, officials said Wednesday.

Bren Haase, executive director for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, provided an update on project implementation and a long-term financial outlook for the state’s coastal plan to the CPRA board in Baton Rouge Wednesday morning.

“I think the coastal program is on solid ground, despite the fact that we are on wetlands along the coast, we are on solid ground for the next several years, and we have been for the past several years,” Haase said. “And that’s really because we have enjoyed the trifecta of … a good science-based plan … the political will to carry out this program … and we’ve had the funding.”

“Of the three of those things, I think the most fragile is … the funding,” he said.

Haase explained that the state in 2007 identified about $300 billion in potential projects, and ultimately developed a 50-year, $50-million plan.

“To meet the needs of that 50-year, $50 billion plan, we need to be trying to input about $1 billion a year on the ground,” he said, adding that the state has secured about $22 billion of the funding.

“We are about where we need to be,” Haase said. “We got a $1 billion plus annual plan last year, we anticipate having about that level of revenues and expenditures over the next several years, as well.”

Haase outlined revenue sources for the program, which includes nearly two dozen in total. Major sources include $12 million to $30 million per year from state mineral revenues, $50 million to $780 million a year from state surplus, up to $132 million annual in federal oil revenue sharing, $30 million to $80 million from the Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act, settlements from oil spills, and other federal programs.

For fiscal year 2024, CPRA’s $1.74 billion in expenditures came 65% from the Deepwater Horizon settlement, 24% from surplus, and 11% from recurring sources.

“The big picture … about 90% of those funds are either one-time or highly variable,” Haase said. “Either surplus dollars, or dollars associated with the oil spill.”

The 2024 expenditures support 118 projects, which will benefit about 87,000 acres, and 123 miles of levees, as well as 10,130 direct jobs and $641 million in labor income, he said.

A long term projection shows that the $1.7 billion in funds this year will likely dissolve to about $200 million by 2032, “unless we can add to that and find more revenue streams,” said Charles Sutcliffe, chief reliance officer for Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Haase also presented the board with an update on implementation of the coastal plan, which currently includes about 100 active projects.

Those projects include 40 in the construction phase, 57 in the engineering in design phase, and three in the planning phase.

Some of the largest underway include a $181 million Large-Scale Barataria Marsh Creation project in Jefferson Parish, $5.5 million in improvements at Cypremort Point State Park in Iberia and St. Mary parishes, and a Long Point Bayou Marsh Creation Project in Cameron Parish.

Haase also highlighted grants CPRA is pursuing through the National Coastal Resilience Fund and America the Beautiful Challenge 2023, as well as progress on the 2023 draft Coastal Master Plan.

About 200 recently attended events in Lake Charles and Lutcher to learn about and offer public comment on the draft plan. CPRA will continue to collect public comments on the plan until March 25 through its website, he said.

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