Louisiana parishes prepared to put up some money of their own for coastal restoration projects could get financial help from the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
The CPRA is prepared to give $100 million in matching funds through 2031 to parishes that want to rebuild the coast and are willing to put up some local money to get their projects prioritized.
Some $20 million is on the table this year. The money comes from a state fund designated by the RESTORE Act.
The first submission round closed last week and CPRA staff are now reviewing the proposals, the agency's board learned at their meeting Wednesday morning. Locals submitted 15 projects seeking more than $45 million, said Chris Barnes, legal advisor for the Governor's Office for Coastal Affairs.
Specific information will be released next month when staff presents the projects to the board. Hurricane Harvey pushed the schedule back a few weeks to give southwest Louisiana communities a fair chance to finalize their proposals.
CPRA engineers and a scientist are reviewing the proposals now, and Barnes hopes to announce which projects have been selected in November.
Then, after a public comment period, the CPRA board will give an up or down vote of their staff's recommended projects in January so work can begin by the end of 2018.
The state isn't setting a fixed match amount or percent, so some parishes may have to kick in half their projects' costs while others could wind up paying more or less.
Board member Dan Morrish applauded the decision, saying it would help give parishes with fewer resources a better shot to receive funding. Parishes can also team up, submit multiple proposals and send in designs for local levee boards or other agencies.
Parishes do get points for providing more local funds, though it's not the most important measure. CPRA is most interested in shepherding through work that protects coastal wildlife habitats and reduces economic losses from storm surges. Proposals that are already included in the Coastal Master Plan and that offer the most bang for the buck will move to the front of the line.
Board member Laurie Cormier worried whether coastal property owners would cooperate with the efforts. Louisiana is in a "coastal crisis" that the state needs to work quickly to address, she said, and getting tied up with recalcitrant land owners might bog efforts down.
Barnes wasn't sure if parishes received letters of support from property owners but said that projects would be graded on their "feasibility."
One reason the state is only offering up to $20 million in the first round is because it wants to work out any kinks that come up in the process so they can be corrected when it's time to distribute the other 80 percent of the pot, Barnes said. Making sure property owners are on board early in the process may be a requirement of future proposals.
However, CPRA is waiting for the first phase to play out a bit more before deciding the particulars of the next round of matching funds.