The political benefits of a road or bridge are in the here-and-now, but the existence of Louisiana is dependent on a laserlike focus on the giant and long-term problem of coastal erosion.
That is why everybody in the state should watch closely for any sign of political backsliding on the formal commitment to spend new federal funding, and that from the giant BP legal settlement, on coastal protection and restoration.
In the last year of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, the state — generally, under Jindal, supportive of the coastal commitment — did some retreating, and it caused an outcry.
Proponents of the project to elevate La. 1 in Lafourche Parish wanted money left over from the Deepwater Horizon settlement work to be used for the La. 1 job. A portion of La. 1 between Golden Meadow and the vital offshore facility at Port Fourchon already has been elevated, but there is additional work to be done to make sure the road is out of harm’s way when waters rise.
While it is a valuable project, it should not have inspired a proposal to raid the funds committed to the coast. Activists and leading members of the state coastal board, including New Orleans civic leader King Milling, protested that idea.
We agreed that it could well be the slippery slope that could lead to the raiding of the Deepwater Horizon money for projects other than coastal restoration and protection.
An agreement was reached in October that withdrew the request for Deepwater Horizon money and replaced it with money out of a different pot of money — the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, the federal law that gradually shares more offshore drilling revenues with the Gulf states.
The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, following the federal law and a subsequent decision of the state Legislature, says it can use from $13 million to $14 million annually for infrastructure projects that support coastal restoration work. The board met in Slidell recently and set up a system of criteria to decide how the money is spent.
Most of the expected $130 million to $140 million per year the state expects to receive from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act is slated for coastal protection and restoration work.
While it’s the beginning of the process, we hope that the new leadership at Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority — Johnny Bradberry, a veteran administrator in state government and private business — will approach the use of the money with care.
Meeting with editors and reporters of The Advocate, Bradberry stressed the state’s commitment to following through on the long-term plans for not only retaining the funding focus of coastal funds but ensuring dollars are spent wisely and effectively.
The sanctity of the coastal commitment is necessary for the long-term future of our state. It must not be impaired.