Note: This is a guest post by Maddie Duhon (@Mduhon64). Maddie is a senior at Louisiana State University currently working on a social media news project, funded with a grant provided by the Knight Foundation, to raise awareness of issues relating to Louisiana’s fragile coastline.
As a Louisiana resident, you have heard statistics such as “Louisiana is losing 25 to 35 square miles of wetlands per year” or “Louisiana is losing a football field of wetlands an hour.” We’ve grown up immersed in the pressing issue of coastal erosion, but did you know efforts are being made to sustain our coast?
The Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority (CPRA) exists to “articulate a clear statement of priorities and to focus development and implementation efforts to achieve comprehensive coastal protection for Louisiana.” For the first time, all coastal efforts are under one agency in response to the devastating storms in 2005. The CPRA created Louisiana’s $50 billion, 50-year coastal protection and restoration master plan, which is updated yearly. The coastal annual plan is a culmination of projects devised with a stable foundation of scientific and engineering principles that focus on restoring Louisiana’s coast, serving as a blueprint and guiding document for the master plan.
The 2016 fiscal year annual plan was released Monday, February 2, 2015. It describes the state’s proposed investment in coastal restoration and protection during the fiscal year 2016, which runs from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. Resources in fiscal year 2016 focus on constructing coastal projects that have already been planned and/or designed, using 65% of total expenditures, which is valued at $503 million. The total amount of expenditures is $773 million.
Proposed 2015-16 coastal restoration and protection plan swells to $773 million http://t.co/nRpepfStxQ
— NOLA.com (@NOLAnews) February 3, 2015
For the first portion of my social media project focusing on coastal restoration, I attended three CPRA public meetings and live-tweeted each event. These meetings offer the public the opportunity to hear about, discuss, and make recommendations on the draft fiscal year 2016 annual plan. It is important to hear feedback from local communities that will be affected if a project is completed or not. At each meeting, Executive Director Kyle Graham presented the draft plan, with members of the public expressing opinions and asking questions after. Some were for the annual plan in its entirety, some opposed specific projects or specific types of projects.
On February 7, 2015, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation disseminated an email informing recipients about the upcoming coastal plan public meetings. The e-blast included information about the live-tweet sessions:
If you cannot attend you can still participate by following on Twitter @lacamocoalition with the hashtag #coastalmasterplan. Continue to check lacamo.org, and “like” us on Facebook for updates on these meetings and more updates related to hunting, fishing and coastal restoration.
On Monday, February 9, 2015, I travelled to New Orleans with Rebecca Triche, Director of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation. Read the storify of the live-tweet, which also includes relevant news stories.
On Wednesday, February 11, 2015, the CPRA Board meeting was held in the Louisiana State Capitol. One important result of this meeting is the CPRA board approved the Calcasieu ship channel salinity control project and Houma canal lock project for RESTORE Pots 1 and 2.
La CPRA recommends $32 million of oil spill fine money for Houma lock, Calcasieu River salinity control projects http://t.co/7xnByO6oMc
— Mark Schleifstein (@MSchleifstein) February 12, 2015
This means the Louisiana coastal authority recommends spending $32 million of the Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill fine money on these two projects. The Calcasieu salinity control project aims to reduce the flow of salt water from the Gulf of Mexico into wetlands along the Mississippi River in Cameron and Vermillion parishes. It is estimated that without the project, as much as 35% of wetlands will be lost by 2070. The Houma canal lock project will help redistribute freshwater within the Terrebonne Basin and reduce saltwater intrusion. Approximately 60% of Louisiana’s land loss occurs in the Barataria and Terrebonne basins. Read the storify here. Later that day I travelled to Houma for the third and final public meeting. Read the storify for the live-tweet, relevant news, and public opinions.
— LA Camo Coalition (@LACamoCoalition) February 12, 2015
According to a recent article by The Advocate, BP and Anadarko, a minority owner of the oil rig, face up to $13.7 billion in fines for violating the Clean Water Act. Eighty percent of the total will be distributed to the five coastal states under the provisions of the RESTORE Act. Louisiana could see as much as $767 million immediately, with hundreds of millions more for other projects in the years ahead.
Public comments on the plan will be accepted until March 18, 2015, by writing CPRA Annual Plan, P.O. Box 44027, Baton Rouge, LA 70804, or by email to Chuck.Perrodin@LA.gov.