Today, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) voted to approve a new resolution to allow 10% of Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funds to be used for infrastructure directly impacted by coastal wetland loss. The new resolution was proposed as a substitute for a resolution that was tabled at September’s CPRA Board Meeting which would have allowed for cost-savings from RESTORE Act pots 1 and 3 funds to be used for the elevation of Louisiana Highway 1. Many stakeholders, including Louisiana Wildlife Federation, found the September resolution problematic because it proposed using funds intended for coastal restoration after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for an infrastructure project.
The compromise reached today between CPRA, the Jindal Administration, the LA1 Coalition and environmental groups including America’s Wetlands Foundation and the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition will allow for up to 10% of GOMESA funds to be used for infrastructure projects directly impacted by coastal wetland loss.
GOMESA funds will total approximately $162 million per year for Louisiana starting in 2017. GOMESA provides four Gulf Coast states, including Louisiana, with 37.5% of Federal revenue gained from new outer continental shelf drilling leases to be used for projects and activities for the purposes of coastal protection, including conservation, coastal restoration, hurricane protection and infrastructure directly affected by coastal wetland losses. Funds can also be used for implementation of a federally approved marine, coastal or comprehensive conservation management plan or mitigation of damage to fish, wildlife or natural resources. Under already existing Louisiana law, no more than 10% of GOMESA funds can be used for infrastructure projects directly impacted by coastal wetland loss.
Today’s resolution confirmed that coastal infrastructure projects directly impacted by coastal wetland loss will be eligible to be considered for up to 10% of the federal revenues Louisiana receives under GOMESA and specifically identifies the LA 1 project for consideration. The resolution went further than existing law by stating the infrastructure projects shall be prioritized for GOMESA funding based on factors, which may include:
- The project’s contribution to community resilience (evacuation routes, connection to local businesses, contribution to regional commerce, etc.);
- The community’s investment in the project;
- The project’s contribution to state, regional and national energy security; and
- Opportunities to leverage funding for the project from sources other than those discussed in this resolution.
In another significant decision, the CPRA board voted to recommend advancing both the Mid Barataria (75,000 cfs) and Mid Breton (35,000 cfs) sediment diversion projects in the Coastal Master Plan, which will reintroduce fresh water and sediment from the Mississippi River into its surrounding, collapsing wetlands and rebuild land over time.
CPRA is leveraging the most current and best-available science to move forward the Mid Barataria and Mid Breton sediment diversions projects into engineering and design with funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that are earmarked for sediment diversions or barrier island restoration projects following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The 2017 Annual Plan will include the engineering and design for both the Mid Barataria and Mid Breton sediment diversions. Because modeling showed limited reductions in land loss for the Lower Barataria and Lower Breton diversions, engineering and design for those diversions are not moving forward at this time. In determining which diversions to advance, CPRA looked at several factors including the land, river, communities, habitat, fish and other factors including costs, funding and timing.