ABBEVILLE — A study that will outline coastal restoration and protection strategies for southwest Louisiana will continue even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not have the money for the project in 2012, state officials said Wednesday.
“The corps funding will stop at the end of this fiscal year,” said Norwyn Johnson with the state Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration.
During the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority meeting, Johnson gave members an update about the planning process, which started about two and a half years ago.
The $8.8 million planning process cost is being split evenly between the state and the corps, he said.
So far, about half the money has been spent, and the corps will have about $75,000 left when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, he said.
The plan is to have a draft feasibility report completed by November 2012 with a signed chief’s report — something that’s actionable by Congress — by July 2013, he said.
There have been delays in the schedule because of changes in corps’ policies that require additional outside reviews and hydraulic modeling, Johnson said.
Cameron Parish Administrator Tina Horn said she was concerned that the project could be deemed not up to corps standards if the corps is not kept involved.
“I just don’t want to be put on the back burner,” Horn said.
Johnson said the state and the corps have agreed to keep working on the study to prevent any further delays despite the lack of funding.
“We’ve been assured by the corps that they’ll stay at the table for awhile. They have some carryover money,” Johnson said.
Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said the state will not stop work on the planning process and has offered to lend or give the corps money to allow it to continue working on the plan.
However, the last time the state offered the corps money to help fill in a budget shortfall for a project, it took two years for the corps to go through the process of accepting money.
In addition, there’s the possibility that several universities in southwest Louisiana could be asked to help with some of the work, Graves said.
The corps would need about $2 million to complete the study, but no money was put into the corps’ 2012 budget for the study, Graves said.
The state paid its share of the study upfront, so that money is already available, Graves said.
Part of the problem is that the corps is also facing a shortfall in funding needed for issues raised by river flooding as well as Hurricane Irene, he said.
Any available funding is fair game to be pulled into the emergency work the corps is trying to accomplish, officials said.