Business coalition to push coastal La. restoration efforts _lowres

Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Pelicans perch on a shrinking grove of mangrove trees earlier this year on Cat Island in Barataria Bay southwest of Port Sulphur. A coalition has been formed to present business case for coastal restoration in Louisiana and ensuring oill spill and federal funds allocated to Louisiana are spent on their intended purposes.

NEW ORLEANS — Threats to Louisiana coastal restoration and protection funding continue to pop up, this time from the State Capitol, where legislators are trying to cobble together money to address a projected $750 million shortfall in next year’s budget.

At least seven proposed bills would either eliminate statutory funding the coastal program gets from mineral revenues, reduce the amount or change the criteria as to how it is allocated, Chip Kline, of the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, said Wednesday.

The bills listed by Kline included Senate Bills 182, 214 and 315, as well as House Bills 477, 504, 509 and 512.

“If this funding is completely eliminated, the state will be contributing zero to the effort here,” he told the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Normally, the coastal share of mineral revenue amounts to about $25 million to $27 million a year, although this year, the amount will be $15 million to $17 million because of low oil and gas prices.

The change in allocation also could hamper the ability of coastal advocates when requesting additional federal funds, said King Milling, a member of the coastal authority

For more than 15 years, Louisiana has shown that it can be responsible and dedicate money to coastal work, he said. He encouraged the packed room of board and audience members to contact their legislators to say the raid on coastal money should not happen.

Coastal advocates and board members have issued warnings that money the state is poised to get through the Deepwater Horizon settlement, when coupled with the offshore oil and gas revenues and other sources, could become a tempting target for legislators looking to fill the budget shortfall.

In February, Gov. John Bel Edwards sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to reconsider diverting offshore revenue away from the work Louisiana is doing to fight coastal land loss. On March 8, 330 groups led by coastal restoration advocates also sent a letter to the president asking him to reconsider.

On Wednesday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu also cautioned about attempts to redirect offshore revenue and raised the prospect of Deepwater Horizon settlement money also being moved to plug the budget shortfall.

“What you’re trying to do does not exist in a vacuum,” Landrieu said.

The temptation to move some of that money for short-term solutions will have larger effects on the long-term realities that the Gulf of Mexico is getting ever closer to New Orleans. Climate change is happening, and human activity is a large factor, which may not be popular to say out loud in Louisiana, but it’s affecting the state anyway, he said.

“Facts are facts,” Landrieu said. “Everything south of Baton Rouge is going to disappear if we don’t figure out how to reverse what’s happening or protect what exists.”

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.