Coastal protection gets a boost on many fronts

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With funding or major coastal restoration projects in Louisiana now secured, Terrebonne Parish is expected to get a major slice of the pie to help meet its own coastal restoration and commerce needs.

Parish President Gordon Dove says the planned expenditures put Terrebonne Parish on track in an area where improvement as well as continued completion of projects are sorely needed.

“Our major coastal restoration project is expected to be completed by 2022,” Dove said. “The $365 million allocated is a great win. A lock system, salt water intrusion protection, and fresh water diversion system at the Bubba Dove floodgate has engineering that is already underway.”

On September 2, 2016, The Department of Treasury published an estimated allocation for the funds to be deposited in the trust fund from the BP final judgment. As estimated, and adjusted according to procedures outlined in the Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, the full totals the State of Louisiana anticipates receiving from the Transocean, Anadarko and BP deposits, in connection with the 2010 BP oil spill, amounts to $250.4 million into one trust fund over a 15-year period of over $260.4 million.

Another $551.5 million, plus interest, is going into the fund under another provision.

Accordingly, this Plan updates and amends the state’s September 21, 2015 RESTORE Plan and contains the projects and programs identified for funding by the CPRA, the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Millions of other dollars related to the 2010 disaster will also be available.

A major Terrebonne Parish feature that has won approval is the Houma Navigation Canal Lock.

It is intended to reduce salt water intrusion and distribute fresh water with the Terrebonne Basin, an area that has experienced one of the highest rates of land loss on the coast.

“Accordingly, this project will help to 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 text of the plan reads. “The Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex will also provide crucial flood protection by blocking storm surge as a key component of the Morganza to the Gulf Hurricane Protection Project.”

The project is billed as having multiple benefits, providing for the rebuilding of the ecosystem as well as providing coastal protection.

While it has great promise, a look at the timeline related to it shows how many years can pass when government has its hand in develppment.

The project has roots in the effect Hurricane Juan had on the parish in 1985, causing extensive flooding in both Terrebonne and Lafourche.

In 1992 a reconnaissance study of the planned Morganza to the Gulf project was authorized and in 1994 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the report.

Two years later, Section 425 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1996 required the Corps to develop a study of the Navigation Canal as an independent feature of the Morganza project.

The study recommended a 200-foot wide lock in the canal south of Bayou Grand Caillou. A lock structure, the report concluded, would provide both direct and indirect benefits.

In the year 2000, the Preconstruction Engineering and Design phase for the HNC lock was initiated and a feasibility study including the HNC lock was completed in 2002. A supplemental report was required in 2003. Authorization for spending on the project was renewed in 2003, and in 2007 a reauthorization was ordered.

A final authorization was required in 2014.

Looking ahead through the next year, local officials have renewed confidence in how federal waters might be navigated for coastal protection purposes.

Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, was named last week as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

The committee oversees regulatory programs supervised by the Corps and the EPA.

“We are all-in with the new Administration’s focus on modernizing our country’s infrastructure – but until you reform the current regulatory climate, you can’t do infrastructure,” said Graves. “Untangling the decades of bureaucracy and the culture of delay within the Corps, EPA and other agencies will take time, but we’re committed to helping lead the transformative change that has to occur to fix what’s broken in government operations. We’re going to work toward making Louisiana’s coast and the state’s need for hurricane and flood protection a case study on how it should be done – instead of another story of government failure.”

Coastal restorationCOURTESY