Saturday, July 16, 2011

La Governor outlines needed coastal restoration projects

Gov. Jindal lists $533 million in projects for BP to finance after Gulf oil spill

Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune 
Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday unveiled a $533 million list of projects the state wants BP to finance out of the $1 billion the company has promised as an advance payment for restoration of damages to natural resources caused by last year's massive oil spill.
jindal-july11.jpgView full sizeGov. Bobby Jindal speaks with other local and state officials at a news conference Monday announcing plans for restoring the state's coastal areas, fisheries and oyster seed grounds from the devastating effects of the BP oil spill. To his right is Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.
"BP talked about making it right," Jindal said at a news conference at the Port of New Orleans headquarters, surrounded by coastal parish leaders and state legislators. "This is the next step they can take to help us to restore our coast and truly show they are serious and they are committed about making it right and beginning to restore some of the damage along our coast."
Included in what Jindal dubbed the "Louisiana Plan" are projects that would rebuild or improve barrier islands and eroded shorelines, build breakwaters to protect existing shoreline, restore wetlands, and create or restore ridges and land bridges.
The money available to build the projects is still to be determined. The $1 billion advance payment agreement unveiled in April calls for the five coastal states and two federal agencies -- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Interior Department -- to serve as natural resource trustees under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. Each of those seven entities would be guaranteed $100 million. Another $300 million would be reserved for the two federal agencies to build projects chosen from those proposed by the five states.
"We expect to receive a fair share -- a disproportionate share -- of those dollars, based on the amount of damage that happened to our coast," Jindal said. He cited federal statistics that he said showed coastal Louisiana had 92 percent of the heavily and moderately oiled shoreline, and that most injured, oiled and dead birds, mammals, fish and other wildlife were found off the state's coast.
"The bottom line is by any measure, whether you look at miles of shoreline, the amount of oil or you look at the species that are impacted, Louisiana has received the brunt of the impact of the damage caused by this oil spill," he said.
Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves, who acts as the state's trustee in the federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment Process, will present the list of projects next week to a committee of trustees representing the coastal states and federal agencies. The list must be approved by that body, and then each project and its cost must be approved by BP.
Atop Jindal's list is the state's earlier request that BP provide $15 million to rebuild the state's oyster industry, decimated when the governor approved a plan to open freshwater diversions along the Mississippi River in an attempt to keep oil out of fragile wetland communities.
The oyster project includes spending $12 million to place cultch material on 855 acres of public oyster seed grounds in parts of Mississippi Sound that are in St. Bernard Parish; Lakes Fortuna and Machias in St. Bernard; Hackberry Bay in Jefferson and Lafourche parishes; Lake Chien and Sister Lake in Terrebonne Parish; and Calcasieu Lake in Cameron Parish.
Another $3 million would be spent on oyster hatchery improvements at Grand Isle.
Mike Voisin, owner of Motivatit Seafood and a member of the Governor's Oyster Advisory Committee, joked that the oyster improvements are especially important in light of the state's loss of a congressional seat due to a population decline measured by the 2010 Census.
"Well, we lost a congressman because we are not eating enough oysters," Voison said. "This plan will enable us to have over 20 congressional districts in only five to 10 years."
The proposal also repeats a request for $48 million to develop a Louisiana Marine Fisheries Enhancement and Science Center that would pay for hatcheries and research labs at three coast locations, a project also requested of BP after the spill.
But most of the money would be spent on "shovel-ready" projects to restore critical habitat, including rapidly eroding barrier islands and beaches, wetlands, and coastal ridges and land bridges. All of those projects had been under development through a variety of federal or state coastal restoration programs.
Louisiana developed its list during a fast-track program that solicited more than 350 proposals representing $15 billion in projects from the public, parishes and state agencies. Other states are still holding hearings to request projects that they also will submit for funding.
Two of the projects would provide money to fast-track construction of the Barataria Basin Barrier Shoreline restoration project.
The Caminada Headland project, $75 million, would begin construction of a 7-foot-high sand dune using material dredged from the Ship Shoal sand deposit in the Gulf of Mexico about 40 miles southwest of the project. The corps has estimated the full cost of that project, including restoration of wetlands on the shore side of dunes, to be $220 million.
Shell Island, $110 million, calls for construction of a barrier island between the Empire Waterway and Grand Bayou Pass. The corps has estimated the full cost of this part of the Barataria project to be $200 million.
Other projects proposed by the state include:
  • West Grand Terre Island Restoration, $9 million, would restore about 120 acres on the southwest Gulf side of the island using sediment pumped from an offshore source.
  • West Grand Terre Island Stabilization, $3 million, would use rock armoring along 11,000 feet of the shoreline to reduce erosion.
  • Grand Isle Bay Side Segmented Breakwater, $3.3 million, would include construction of six 300-foot breakwaters, about 1.5 miles long, on the back bay side of the island, where other breakwater structures already have been built to protect residential and commercial development.
  • Chenier Ronquille Barrier Island Restoration, $44 million, just west of the Shell Island project, would rebuild 127 acres of beach and dune and 259 acres of marsh.
  • Biloxi Marsh Shoreline Protection, $45 million, would create a 6.5 mile to 7.5 mile breakwater structure to protect wetlands along the southeast shoreline of Lake Borgne.
  • Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation, $13.9 million, would add 97.5 acres of new marsh to an earlier restoration project in Plaquemines Parish that was built with federal money.
  • Caillou Lake Land Bridge, $71 million, would rebuild or protect 1,600 acres of salt marsh about 38 miles southeast of Morgan City, $71 million.
  • Grand Liard Marsh and Ridge Restoration, $31 million, would rebuild 18,000 feet of ridge, and create 328 acres and restore 140 acres of marsh, south of Triumph in Plaquemines Parish, $31 million.
  • Chandeleur Islands Restoration, $65 million. The state would work with the Interior Department and Mississippi to design a restoration plan for the hurricane-damaged islands, which are in Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes.
Jindal said he has asked the state's trustee team to begin work on a second list of projects, including several that would be outside Louisiana, that could be financed during later BP damage assessment payments.
Those would include projects to restore segments of Lake Pontchartrain that became oiled during the spill.
It also would include the construction of wetland buffers along rivers and streams in Iowa and other Midwest states to capture phosphates and nitrogen from fertilizer that flow down the Mississippi River to Louisiana coastal waters, feeding low-oxygen dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. The areas are formed when the nutrients cause algae blooms, the algae dies and sinks to the bottom of the Gulf, decomposing and using up oxygen.
Jindal said the state also would work with Mississippi to remove dams to restore the flow of freshwater to the Mississippi Sound, which would help that state's oyster beds.
The state also would propose projects that would expand on its Coastal Forest Initiative, financed with state surplus dollars, to rebuild cypress and tupelo forests in wetland areas that would act as storm surge buffers.
Mark Schleifstein can be reached at or 504.826.3327.

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