On May 20th, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) published Louisiana’s Multiyear Implementation and Expenditure Plan (the Plan) to document how Louisiana will spend the first outflow of funds from Clean Water Act fines administered from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill under the RESTORE Act. The first outflow of $39,404,635.85 has been placed in the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund to be distributed to Louisiana pursuant to the RESTORE Act. The funds will be appropriated once the U.S. Department of Treasury approves Louisiana’s Multiyear Implementation and Expenditure Plan.
The Process for Allocating Funds
CPRA will use the Plan process to distribute all RESTORE funds under Pots 1 and 3. Pot 1 funds comprise 35% of the RESTORE funds and are distributed in equal amounts to each Gulf State. Louisiana will receive 7%. Pot 3 funds comprise 30% of the RESTORE funds and will be allocated according to an oil spill restoration impact formula. The RESTORE Council has not yet determined this formula. The total amount of all RESTORE funds is uncertain but is predicted to range from five to thirteen billion dollars. The amount will be known when Judge Barbier rules in the third phase of the BP Trial.
The RESTORE Act requires a specific process for allocation of funds to Gulf States. First, CPRA must publish the Plan that details how it will spend funds under the Direct Component of the RESTORE Act (Pot 1). Once published, the Plan is open for comment from the public for 45 days. Once the comment period is up, CPRA will address the comments made in the Plan and will submit the revised plan to the Treasury Department for approval. The Treasury Department has 30-45 days to approve Louisiana’s Plan. Once approved, the funds will be placed in Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund to be used for implementation of the Plan.
A similar process is required for the oil spill impact allocation amount and projects to be funded (Pot 3). There are currently $240 million ready for distribution in this pot of funds, but the RESTORE Council has not yet determined what the oil spill impact formula will be. For this category of funds, a State Expenditure Plan will be submitted and will be approved by the Restore Council. CPRA has decided to streamline the process for both Pot 1 and Pot 3 by using the Multiyear Implementation and Expenditure Plan process for both pots 1 and 3. Approval will then be sought from the corresponding agency (Treasury or Restore Council).
Louisiana’s Proposed Allocation of Funds
Louisiana will be pulling from its 2012 Coastal Master Plan in determining which projects to submit for funding from RESTORE. For this first allocation of $39,404,635.85, CPRA has chosen four projects including the Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex, Calcasieu Ship Channel Salinity Control Measures, Adaptive Management and State Matching Opportunities.
Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex ($16,000,000)
The Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex is needed to reduce salt water intrusion and to distribute freshwater within the Terrebonne Basin, an area which is experiencing one of the highest rates of land loss in coastal Louisiana. The project will also mitigate damage to fish, wildlife and natural resources which rely on freshwater inputs and limit the intrusion of salt water into freshwater marsh systems allowing for the maintenance of thousands of acres of wetlands which serve as critical wildlife habitat and nurseries for fisheries. The funds will be used for engineering and design. Construction costs are estimated to be $323,396, 211. If funded, this allocation will complete the engineering and design costs for this project.
Calcasieu Ship Channel Salinity Control Measures ($16,000,000)
The Calcasieu Ship Channel Salinity Control Measures is needed to address modifications to hydrology that have caused an increase in salinity levels within the project area, resulting in degradation of the integrity of the surrounding marsh area and increased rates of wetland loss. This project will also mitigate damage to fish, wildlife and natural resources which rely on freshwater inputs and limit the intrusion of salt water into freshwater marsh systems allowing for maintenance of thousands of acres of wetlands which serve as critical wildlife habitat and nurseries for fisheries. The project will contribute to the overall ecological and economic recovery of the Gulf by saving an anticipated 21,000 acres of marsh environment from degradation over 50 years. The funds will be used for project development and design. Once applied, 30% of the project design will be completed and the NEPA process of assessing environmental impacts of the project can be performed.
Adaptive Management ($2,400,000)
Adaptive Management is a strategy employed in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan that involves managing complex environments in an integrated and flexible way that considers risk and uncertainty. It promotes solutions that are sustainable even if conditions change. CPRA’s adaptive management strategy includes data collection and management, which includes the development and implementation of a System-Wide Assessment and Monitoring Program (SWAMP) that is currently being designed. CPRA is requesting 7.5% of the total available funding for Adaptive Management. As more funds are made available, CPRA plans on requesting similar percentages for Adaptive Management.
CPRA- Parish Matching Opportunities Program (TBD, estimated up to $3,900,000)
When local parishes and the state work together to complete projects, they achieve more integrated coastal protection. The matching program is designed to help parishes implement projects that may not be specifically contained in the Coastal Master Plan, but are nevertheless consistent with the Coastal Master Plan. This approach will allow for the CPRA to connect large scale projects with strategic local projects in a way that can maximize efficiencies and the impact of RESTORE Act funds.
How to Comment on the Proposed Allocation
Public comments will be accepted until July 6, 2015. Comments can be submitted via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or via regular mail to CPRA, Attn: Jenny Kurz, P.O. Box 44027, Baton Rouge, LA 70804.