OUR VIEW: For coastal work, give credit where it’s due

A Louisiana-Dakota connection
December 7, 2016
Lafourche School Board to consider raises, bonds
December 7, 2016

Terrebonne Parish has something to cheer about.

A draft plan of Louisiana’s “RESTORE” plan, the official blueprint for restoration of the state’s coast, has been released and includes major projects for Terrebonne Parish. The plan includes details of what the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will fund throughout various locations in the state. According to the document, the CPRA will set aside $365 million for a lock system, measures to fight saltwater intrusion, a freshwater diversion system at the Bubba Dove floodgate, and engineering for construction that has already begun on some other projects.

The RESTORE Act dedicates 80 percent of the Clean Water Act civil and administrative penalties associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, also known as the RESTORE Trust Fund. The entities paying in are Transocean Deepwater Inc., Anadarko Petroleum and BP Exploration and Production Inc.

On January 3, 2013, Transocean agreed to pay a $1 billion civil penalty under the Clean Water Act for its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Pursuant to the RESTORE Act, 80 percent of these amounts plus interest, or approximately $816 million, was deposited into the RESTORE Trust Fund in three installments paid in full by February 2015. On December 16, 2015, a final judgment was issued against Anadarko for Clean Water Act penalties in the amount of $159.5 million for its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Eighty percent of these funds plus interest, or approximately $127.6 million, was deposited into the RESTORE Trust Fund through a single payment in March 2016. Accordingly, the Transocean and Anadarko settlement payments have been deposited in full into the RESTORE Trust Fund and are currently available.

According to the plan, the work is to be completed by 2022.

The dollar amounts for RESTORE funding are a matter of what was determined in court, not in the halls of the Louisiana State Legislature.

But the plan determining how this money will be spent is the product of a major process. Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove is to be commended for his role in keeping the focus on Terrebonne, as well as Reggie Dupre, director of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District. Other individuals deserve congratulations here as well. Jerome Zeringue, now a state representative but formerly a big player in how Louisiana makes its coastal decisions, Garrett Graves, now a congressman but once Gov. Bobby Jindal’s coastal czar, as well as various staff members at state and parish agencies and the levee district, have all contributed. And a mention should be made, as well, of former Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet.

All of these individuals and more helped form a can-do culture for Louisiana in terms of addressing coastal erosion. They and others never lost faith in the belief that our coast requires restoration and that human decency demands it.

In addition to protection of our homes and businesses, the draft also brings with it another benefit. The coastal protection work – while not necessarily restricted to coastal firms – will require coastal workers and in some cases the expertise that companies long engaged with these projects have amassed.

Along with some good news from OPEC this past week – the potential that oil and gas market prices will begin to rise, spurring more production – the coastal plan development is a light at the end of a tunnel, distant but evident.

Sometimes it is not just specific decisions or work that need to be congratulated, but the tone that is set, most often from the top. If he accomplishes nothing else in his entire political career, Gordon Dove’s continued dedication to preserving and rebuilding the coast – absent his bashful nature when it comes to suing oil companies – needs to be recognized and cheered. And now is the perfect time for that. Cheers as well to the others mentioned here. We look forward to seeing everyone get to work!