Louisiana Panel Approves Another $300 Million for Coastal Restoration

Tue August 26, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Alan Sayre - ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Louisiana finished putting up about $1 billion for coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects Aug. 13 when a state panel approved the use of $300 million from the state budget surplus to begin turning dirt on the much-studied plans.

The $300 million became available after the federal government told Louisiana it could pay its $1.8 billion share of levee improvements over the next 30 years instead of three as had been scheduled.

Of the amount authorized Aug. 13, more than $150 million will go toward levees stretching across southeastern Louisiana, including New Orleans.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority also approved sending $110 million to projects that will restore the coastline from erosion that was aggravated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The spending must be approved by a joint legislative budget committee.

At a news conference following the meeting, Gov. Bobby Jindal said spending for levees and coastal restoration — aided by federal funding — will eventually hit $16 billion.

“The days of the studies are behind us,” Jindal said of the much-discussed project. “Now is the time to start turning dirt.”

The rest of the $1 billion comes from a $200 million state surplus recorded in 2007, $510 million from offshore petroleum revenue, $83 million from the state coastal trust fund and $83 million from a federal coastal restoration law.

Almost all of the money will advance projects already approved by the federal government.

Included in the plan is the state’s first payment to the federal government — $130 million — for its share of bringing New Orleans area levees up to protecting the region from a once-in-a-century flood.

Officials said that will help the Army Corps of Engineers meet a 2011 deadline to bring levees to that standard.

The plan, including all sources of state and local money, also includes:

• $200 million for levee improvements in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.

• $70 million to provide a buffer to storm surge in Jefferson and Lafourche parishes and to acquire and restore Elmer’s Island for use by the public for recreation.

• $45 million to protect coast along the Cameron Parish and protect Highway 82.

• $37 million to build a pipeline to deliver sediment for projects in Plaquemines, Jefferson and Lafourche parishes.

• $24 million for a freshwater diversion project for Bayou Lafourche. Congress has authorized $150 million for the project.

• $26 million to use dredged material from navigation canals — now dumped in the deep regions of the Gulf of Mexico by the Corps of Engineers — on wetlands restoration projects.