The state's 2017 coastal master plan, a 50-year agenda for helping to slow coastal land loss and limit damage from major storms, cleared the Louisiana Senate by an overwhelming vote Wednesday.
The plan now goes to the House of Representatives, where officials with the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority hope it will be considered in committee as early as next week and by the full House the week after that.
By law, the state must produce a revised master plan every five years. The 2017 version is the third and, like its predecessors, details 50 years' worth of projects estimated to cost $50 billion in today's dollars.
The plan must be approved by the Legislature on an up-or-down vote, without revisions. The 2007 and 2012 master plans passed unanimously in both chambers.
The resolution before the Senate on Wednesday was presented by Sen. Dan Morrish, R-Jennings, who said the plan was "based on science" and is a model for other states.
"Louisiana is solving problems associated with coastlines around the world," he said.
The Senate approved the resolution 33-1, with Sen. Jonathan Perry, R-Kaplan, casting the only negative vote.
In a related move, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution approving the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority's annual plan, a three-year funding program for projects in the master plan. The annual plan allocates more than $600 million in master-plan spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, urged his Senate colleagues to pay close attention to the plan, which he said helps the state confront a "national crisis" with little national help.
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"This is going to be one of the most important endeavors undertaken by the state of Louisiana," Chabert said on the floor. "This Legislature needs to be engaged on this."
The annual plan will now go to the Transportation and Natural Resources committees in the House before being presented to the full chamber.
Getting legislative approval for the plan is the culmination of years of CPRA collaboration with stakeholders and then months of public meetings in the state's coastal areas, including in Lake Charles, Mandeville, New Orleans and Houma. Public comment was collected on the plan, and some minor revisions were made as a result.
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The plan still faces significant hurdles outside the Capitol, however, not least of which is a daunting federal permitting process for some key projects in the plan. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has told the CPRA that permitting for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion project near Myrtle Grove won't be completed until 2022.
CPRA officials have called that unacceptable, and Gov. John Bel Edwards has asked the Trump administration to declare a state of emergency as a way of streamlining the process.
Chip Kline, a state coastal official, told the CPRA board Wednesday that state officials have discussed the matter with federal officials and were asked to prepare a report on exactly how they are being stymied in the federal process.