When it comes to big money, the state’s coastal restoration effort is formidable. But even with billions of dollars coming in over the next 14 years, Louisiana is far from dealing with the kind of coastal erosion problem that has built up over decades.
The 14-year window for outlining the funding issues was not chosen at random by Johnny Bradberry, chief coastal aide to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
It applies to the years that Louisiana, as well as other Gulf of Mexico states, will benefit from civil and criminal penalties levied on oil giant BP after the 2010 disaster that killed 11 workers and leaked prodigious amounts of oil into coastal waters.
That money has taken a long time to flow, only really beginning to be felt last year. While there are projects that the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority could undertake with its earlier funding sources from the U.S. government, the big ones — the single Mid-Barataria diversion project is $1.4 billion or more — will eat up cash pretty quickly.
Bradberry was involved in the early planning for coastal restoration during the administration of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco a decade ago. He said of the BP money, “it’s more than anyone ever expected we’d have,” but immediately added that it is not enough.
The CPRA, of which Bradberry is board chairman, gets only very limited oil and gas revenues from the state. Two federal programs are significant, including the steady flow of money from a coastal program named for its legislative author, John Breaux, and the separate Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA.
The latter is revenue-sharing from offshore leases that is split with the Gulf states, but under the Obama administration and to some extent during the Trump presidency, the Louisiana delegation in Congress has been forced to protect the funding for a key state priority.
Our delegation is today seeking to give the state expanded GOMESA funding, and if it comes through, it would be a significant additional help. But add it all together, and Louisiana with $9 billion to $11 billion over the next 14 years would still be short of the $50 billion need anticipated in the coastal master plan.
Bradberry also noted to the Press Club of Baton Rouge that BP funding is typically going to a series of grant programs, for which Louisiana must apply. “Each fund has its own requirements,” Bradberry said.
All told, Louisiana’s coastal restoration programs can slow, if not entirely eliminate, the impact of rising sea levels and storm surges. The nation as well as the state benefits, if only because coastal marshes buffer against storms that cause billions in damages to property, not counting many lives.