CPRA approves 2009 annual plan

The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority voted unanimously to approve the CPRA's Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Plan: Ecosystem Restoration and Hurricane Protection in Coastal Louisiana at its monthly meeting Wednesday. David Miller, Department of Transportation and Development Assistant Secretary for Public Works and Hurricane Flood Protection and member of the CPRA Implementation Team outlined the various hurricane protection and coastal restoration projects listed in the plan...

• Discusses priorities for surplus funds

BATON ROUGE, LA, March 19, 2008 -- The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority voted unanimously to approve the CPRA's Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Plan: Ecosystem Restoration and Hurricane Protection in Coastal Louisiana at its monthly meeting Wednesday.

David Miller, Department of Transportation and Development Assistant Secretary for Public Works and Hurricane Flood Protection and member of the CPRA Implementation Team that was responsible for writing the Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Plan, outlined the various hurricane protection and coastal restoration projects listed in the plan. The plan identifies $80.5 million in state funds for protection projects and $143.5 million for coastal restoration projects.

The first draft of the Annual Plan was presented to the CPRA at its meeting on Feb. 26 when Authority Chair Garret Graves asked that the public comment period for the plan be extended by 10 days and that some of the priorities and expenditures be augmented.

According to Miller, the final draft of the plan has changed in several ways from the original draft including: an increase from $15 million to $70 million in the amount of capital outlay funds requested from the State Legislature, a table identifying each individual project and its specific cost rather than a grouping of projects based on funding sources, a full funding of the Southwest Coastal Louisiana hurricane protection project feasibility study and appendices including the projected funding needs for the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years.

"The $15 million identified in the first draft represented the historic amount given by the state in capital outlay projects," Miller said. "We recognize that the state needs to change the level of funding it provides in order for us to move forward on these restoration and protection efforts."

The original draft of the Annual Plan identified about $144 million in projects that the state could fund and approximately $850 million in unmet needs for projects that could be built if funds were available. According to Miller, the final version of the plan identifies $224 million in projects that can be paid for with available funds but also approximately $1.23 billion in unmet needs for the 2009 fiscal year. The unmet needs grew largely because of more precise project costs provided by the Army Corps of Engineers for which the state will be required to provide matching funds, Miller said.

Graves said the Louisiana Congressional Delegation is working to have the state's share reduced for several projects being built by the Corps including the Lake Pontchartrain and vicinity flood protection system.

"I want to commend those who served beyond the call of their duty to put together this plan," said Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Secretary and CPRA member Scott Angelle. "The employees from the Departments of Transportation and Development and Natural Resources and the Governor's Office of Coastal Activities worked extremely hard to move the hurricane protection and coastal restoration needs of this state forward."

The Annual Plan will now be submitted to the Louisiana Legislature for consideration during the 2008 Regular Legislative Session scheduled to begin March 31. The State Legislature, bound by statute, can only approve or disapprove the plan in its entirety.

The Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Plan can be viewed on the CPRA website at www.lacpra.org.

The CPRA also discussed the recent special session of the Louisiana Legislature during which $300 million in state budget surplus funds were dedicated to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Trust Fund to pay for coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects.

Graves said the CPRA has an enormous responsibility in deciding what projects will be funded by the budget surplus.

"The State Legislature has entrusted this authority to make the best possible use of this money," he said. "We need to make sure we have an incredibly transparent process by which we determine how to use these funds and assure the public it will have ample opportunity to comment on the process."

The time frame by which the projects will be chosen has not been set and depends on a number of factors including Congressional budget decisions, Graves said. However, he assured the Authority that the state would proceed before the end of this year.

In other action, the CPRA approved a motion to establish a programmatic policy that requires the Authority to review and approve of all future project partnership agreements with the Corps of Engineers and decide if the Authority will serve as the sole local sponsor for the project, act as one of the local sponsors or delegate what agency or levee district would be the local sponsor.

The Authority also received updates from the Corps of Engineers about the Corps' draft LaCPR study, which is estimated to be complete by Dec. 2008 after originally being scheduled to be complete by last December, as well as the status of the 100-year hurricane protection efforts in the New Orleans area.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority's mandate is to develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive coastal protection and restoration master plan. For the first time in Louisiana's history, this single state authority will integrate coastal restoration and hurricane protection by marshalling the expertise and resources of the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Transportation and Development, and other state agencies, to speak with one clear voice for the future of Louisiana's coast. Working with federal, state and local political subdivisions, including levee districts, the CPRA will work to establish a safe and sustainable coast that will protect our communities, the nation's critical energy infrastructure, and our bountiful natural resources for generations to come. The CPRA of Louisiana was established by Act 8 of the 1st Extraordinary Session of 2005

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