Chip Kline, a leader of Louisiana's coastal restoration efforts, gave a regional group trying to lessen flooding in the Baton Rouge area a pressing imperative.
Get him a list of projects soon, Kline said, for Gov. John Bel Edwards to consider for post-2016 flood recovery money — before the next governor takes office in January.
"I don't think the governor would mind me saying this out loud. The last two times I had met with him, he has said, 'Chip, I want to award as much watershed money, between now and the end of year, as we possibly can,'" Kline told the Amite River Basin Commission.
Kline said it would be "very helpful" for the commission to have a list of projects for the governor — and soon, by the group's meeting next month. He pointed out that the commission has the power of its collective voice that can "speak as a region."
Kline said he would be open to being thrown "the whole kitchen sink at me if you want to or if you know there's some low-hanging fruit that is prime-time ready for construction."
Kline is Edwards' executive assistant for coastal activities and leads the oversight board for Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which funnels billions of dollars into projects to stop coastal erosion.
Kline is also a new appointee to the river commission along with political leaders of parishes in the 2,200-square mile basin. CPRA also has an advisory role for the panel.
Best known as a local sponsor of the Comite River Diversion Canal, the Amite Basin commission has recently been reconstituted and better empowered to address regional problems that affect the river basin, the Baton Rouge area's main drainage outlet.
The 2016 flood inundated tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the basin.
Kline's comments came during a commission discussion Tuesday about an ongoing effort to create a web-based list of projects that are underway so the public gets a sense of what's being done; commissioners agreed to continue working on a list of projects in light of Kline's comments.
Congressman Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, and other members of the delegation wrangled $1.2 billion from Congress in 2018 to help the state create new flood control infrastructure to allow communities to better weather devastating floods like the ones in 2016.
Edwards created the Louisiana Watershed Initiative to dole out those federal dollars. It has awarded more than $440 million across the state so far and started taking applications on Monday for another round of money worth $100 million.
Earlier rounds have gone to East Baton Rouge and other parishes in the basin, including for regional detention ponds and changes to speed up water flow in the lower Amite, but those projects were driven by the local governments, not the river commission.
Kline noted the Watershed Initiative is not in statute but Edwards created it by executive order.
"There's going a gubernatorial election in this fall, and a new governor could come in and completely undo everything that's been done to sort of set the stage for these (monetary) awards," Kline said.
Edwards, a two-term Democratic governor, is term limited. The gubernatorial primary is Oct. 14.
Five Republicans have already announced their intentions to run: state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, state Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville and Treasurer John Schroder and former head of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Stephen Waguespack. Independent Hunter Lundy of Lake Charles has also announced.
Only one Democrat has announced: Edwards' recently departed state transportation secretary, Shawn Wilson.