Legislative Report

Vermilion, West Cote Blanche bays projects added to coastal Master Plan Shoreline protection projects added in response to public input

by Mike Stagg

The CPRA added four new projects to the 2017 Coastal Master Plan but did not identify new funding sources to pay for them

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency/Wikimedia

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority added four new projects to the final version of the 2017 Coastal Master Plan when it met on Thursday, including projects affecting shoreline protection in Iberia and Vermilion parishes.

Bren Haase, CPRA’s Chief of Planning and Research, tells The Independent that all four of the projects were added to the plan as a result of public input.

“The Vermilion and West Cote Blanche bays project was put in as a result of overwhelming public input in response to our initial plan,” Haase explains. Haase was contacted by phone on Friday morning.

The Vermilion Bay and West Cote Blanche Bay project will involve building nearly 15 miles of rock breakwaters on the east shoreline of Vermilion Bay. The breakwaters will be built to 3.5 feet above sea level. The purpose of the project is to reduce coastal erosion caused by wave action.

The project will cost $155.6 million to build and maintain over the life of the Master Plan.

Haase says the three other projects added to the Master Plan by the CPRA on Thursday also included a floodgate across Bayou Chene near Amelia, a rock wave barrier along nearly 51 miles of shoreline in Cameron Parish, and flood-proofing 25 businesses in flood-prone areas of Calcasieu Parish. The CPRA also restored funding for a project to study the effectiveness of a marsh restoration approach that could be tried in Terrebonne Bay.

Haase says it’s not clear at this time when any of these projects will be implemented. Some of the uncertainty is related to restrictions attached to some funding streams that CPRA receives.

“For instance, funds that we’ll get from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment are restricted to wetlands restoration,” Haase explains. “The Terrebonne Bay study is a nice fit for that funding source, so there is no need for us to let that project sit on the shelves for a few years. We can fund it.”

Haase and his boss Johnny Bradberry, the governor's executive assistant for coastal activities, told members of the Senate Select Committee on Coastal Restoration and Flood Control earlier this week that the Master Plan has a $100 million fund set aside to let the authority and local governments do joint ventures.

“If there’s a match between local and state priorities, then we can use that fund to either help local government with their projects that match our plans or to enable us to help them with a project that is important to them and aligns with our priorities,” Haase says. Haase adds that CPRA has not yet established what the match split will be.

The central problem facing the CPRA is funding, or the lack thereof. The 128 projects in the 2017 Coastal Master Plan call for at least $50 billion in spending. Bradberry told the Senate Select Committee earlier in the week that the state has just under $20 billion in funding that it can count on. The other $30 billion for projects is not there.

Haase points out that adding the four new projects approved by the CPRA on Thursday did not change the projected total spending on the 2017 Master Plan.