Landrieu Secures $19M for Coastal Restoration Construction Projects in La.

July 21, 2010

LCA funding represents only new start construction project in entire country.

WASHINGTON — At the request of United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Energy and Water today approved legislation that includes the first-ever appropriation of federal construction dollars in an annual spending bill for coastal restoration in Louisiana. Sen. Landrieu secured a total of $35.6 million for coastal restoration projects as part of the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) program.

Of these funds, $19 million is designated for new construction projects including beneficial use of dredge material, potential river diversion demonstration projects and funding to start construction on a host of projects authorized by the 2007 Water Resources Development Act. This funding is significant in light of the towering backlog of Corps projects nationally, and Congressional policy of not starting projects deemed to be new funding.

“For decades, the people of Louisiana have been fighting a losing battle – a winnable battle – to save the most productive working coast and delta in the world,” Sen. Landrieu said. “We are losing 25 to 35 square miles of wetlands per year, which places millions of lives and critical national resources at risk. To add to this crisis, these fragile coastal wetlands and fragmented barrier islands have been under assault for the last three months from thousands barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf.

“But this bill takes an historic step to begin funding the near-term coastal restoration work that has been developed over many years of planning and study. This important work will be used to place dredge material beneficially in areas off the coast that have been starved of the nutrient rich sediment carried in our waterways. Additionally, funding in this bill will speed up demonstration projects that may involve the diversion of river water to replenish fragile wetlands and restore critical habitat for birds and wildlife – some of which has been devastated by the BP oil spill.”

In February, President Obama’s 2011 budget included $19 million for restoration construction projects in Louisiana. While federal funds have been used for coastal construction projects in the past through other programs championed by Sen. Landrieu, this year marked the first time that any President had put such funds in his budget. However, last week, the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee zeroed out funding for LCA construction projects. Through Sen. Landrieu’s efforts today, the funding did not suffer the same fate in the Senate.

Previous federal funds utilized for constructing coastal restoration have come through programs such as the Coastal Impact Assistance Programs of 2001 and 2005, as well as the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act or Breaux Act. But funding has been both erratic and unpredictable. An annual line item in the President’s Budget would help alleviate some of the uncertainty surrounding the funds needed to bring coastal restoration projects into the construction phase and eventually to completion. While $19 million is just the start of funding needed to advance critical restoration projects in Louisiana, preserving money allocated in the President’s Budget is a key step to ensuring more robust funding in the future.

“The protection and restoration of coastal Louisiana is an urgent national priority,” Sen. Landrieu said. “Despite the success in this legislation, the current federal process of authorization and appropriation is woefully inadequate and painfully slow. The success of any long-term effort to save our coast – a commitment President Obama made in the wake of this oil spill disaster – will depend on a robust, dedicated stream of revenue that is not subject to the annual appropriations process. This Congress needs to take action as soon as possible to make that a reality for the Gulf Coast.”

Additionally, the Committee included $16.6 million to advance ongoing coastal restoration studies that will lead to construction. The LCA program will affect 20 parishes along Louisiana’s coast from Mississippi to Texas.

The Committee also approved more than $250 million championed by Sen. Landrieu for related coastal restoration studies, hurricane protection, navigation and water infrastructure projects in Louisiana.

For south central Louisiana, the Committee set aside $31.7 million for flood control, navigation, and ecosystem maintenance in the Atchafalaya Basin and Floodway. This legislation provides funding for this freshwater basin and river system project, which is a part of the Mississippi River and Tributaries program. As the largest swamp in the United States, the Atchafalaya Basin is unique because it has a growing delta system with nearly-stable wetlands and contains almost one million acres of America’s most significant bottomland hardwoods, swamps, bayous, and backwater lakes.

Other projects championed by Sen. Landrieu that alleviate the risk of flooding and provide storm protection for Louisiana include:

•$8 million to continue construction of the Comite River Diversion project that will reduce flooding in East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes by diverting waters to the Mississippi River. This project will construct a 12-mile-long diversion channel between the Comite and Mississippi Rivers north of the town of Baker and south of the town of Zachary.
•$5.5 million to continue construction to improve and raise the levee system between LaRose and Golden Meadow. This hurricane protection project will reduce flooding and the possibility of future damage for approximately 23,000 residents in the region. It will protect local economic activities, such as oil and gas production, commercial fishery and other related industries.
•$1 million for the Coastal Protection Study in the Southern Louisiana Chenier Plain to allow experts to study the benefits of constructing an armored 12-foot levee along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway as a solution to hurricane protection and storm damage reduction in three parishes.

“Since the 1930s, coastal Louisiana has lost more than a million acres of coastal wetlands,” Sen. Landrieu said. “This loss threatens local communities and critical infrastructure — such as pipelines, navigation, channels, fisheries and ecosystems — that drives our local economies. Passing this bill is a critical step towards fully funding levee and flood control projects that protect our state’s economic interests on the coast and keep Louisianians safe.”

Additional provisions in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill requested by Sen. Landrieu include:

•$19 million to maintain the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway which spans the entire Gulf Coast and is essential to Louisiana inland and coastal ports. This project will protect passage for barge traffic to vital locations along the Gulf Coast. It will also replace sector gates and construct new operating machinery at the IHNC, Harvey, Port Allen, Leland Bowman and Algiers Lock.
•$22 million for the Calcasieu River and Pass Ship Channel that serves the Port of Lake Charles and Cameron Parish. This funding includes regular operation and maintenance of the waterway, as well as construction funding to implement the Dredge Material Management Program that will restore area wetlands with beneficially used dredge material from the channel.
•$19 million for navigation construction, as well as regular operation and maintenance of the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway. This project is necessary to improve navigation, stabilize river banks, reduce sedimentation and allow for general maintenance. The funding secured by Sen. Landrieu will continue to preserve the integrity of the current system, as well as allow for the acquisition of lands, preservation of the local wildlife and construction along the waterway.
•$1 million to the University of Louisiana Lafayette for renewable value added feedstock..
•$300,000 to Grambling University for energy solar renewable research.
•$300,000 for CHRISTUS in Lake Charles for a Center for Healthy Living and Energy Efficient LEED Technology.

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