With the passage last session of the 2017 Coastal Master Plan, the State is in a strong position to significantly advance coastal restoration this year. Additionally, with the recommendation of the Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group to invest $2 billion on key restoration projects in the Barataria Basin it is our hope that the State will claim key successes in the upcoming year in protecting and restoring our coastline.
Still, there are key issues that could result in imperiled progress for the coastal program. Proceeds from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) are now forecast to be significantly lower than expected. There is no plan for the State to meet debt obligations from the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) 30-year payback although CPRA is working with the Louisiana congressional delegation. Even more alarming, after 2033 there will be a severe drop-off in funds which will threaten the full execution of the projects designated in the Coastal Master Plan.
Louisiana must fully engage with the federal government and the private sector to secure the billions of dollars in additional resources that will be necessary to save our coast and our way of life. To this end, we must succeed in executing our Coastal Master Plan in the most efficient, effective and transparent way possible.
The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is the largest and oldest coastal advocacy organization in the state. Respectfully, the members of CRCL ask you to consider the following priorities we believe are crucial to effectively address the unprecedented challenges facing our state. Only deliberate and far-sighted legislative action will give coastal Louisiana a chance to meet this land loss crisis.
1. Protect and Increase CPRA Funding
In the past, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) has experienced mid-year budget cuts that have imperiled its ability to meet its mission. The Revenue Estimating Conference recognized a potential budget surplus of $120 million that must be directed for expenditure during 2018 regular session. We urge the Legislature to apply as much of these non-recurring revenues as possible to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Trust Fund. The Legislature should also continue to work with our federal delegation to protect GOMESA from cuts and to seek forgiveness for the State’s HSDRRS payback responsibility.
2. Pass the Annual Plan
The thoughtful scientific and public policy deliberations that produced the 2017 Coastal Master Plan were part of a process that serves as a national model, and indeed, for which we can all be proud. We urge you to carefully consider the 2019 Annual Plan before you. CRCL supports the ambition, scope and underlying science of the plan. We urge you to pass the annual plan swiftly and without unnecessary delay.
3. Continue to Press for Urgency on Large Scale Sediment Diversions
The science is clear: large scale sediment diversions are the best hope for restoring coastal Louisiana. Significant progress has been made in the last year in expediting the permitting process for the Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton sediment diversions. Legislators should continue to support CPRA and the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities to encourage cooperation with the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana’s Trustee Implementation Group for swift permitting and the beginning of construction of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion by 2020.
4. Explore Innovative Coastal Funding Mechanisms
Criminal and civil fines and fees from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster are required to be spent by 2033. At this point, the State will still have a large backlog of projects necessary to sustain the coast through implementation of the Coastal Master Plan. The State must embrace new and innovative funding mechanisms, including Environmental Impact Bonds, “Pay for Success” outcome based performance contracts, and Natural Resource Damage Restoration Banking. The Legislature should work constructively with CPRA to support them in using these new funding mechanisms as well as finding other new funding mechanisms.
5. Ensure Reasonable and Responsible Capacity
CPRA has a huge job to do with a small staff. We must make sure that CPRA has adequate staff to be able to move money as efficiently and timely as possible while maintaining all appropriate safeguards and measures. The Legislature should support and fund the Chairman’s efforts to ensure the agency is reasonably resourced so that projects move to completion as quickly as possible and are not delayed due to inadequate capacity.