LA - 2021 Legislative Session Delivers Significant Gains for Louisiana’s Coast
Yesterday, the 2021 Louisiana Regular Legislative Session adjourned with a strong effort to protect funding for coastal restoration and prioritize community resilience, including unanimous passage of the Fiscal Year 2022 Coastal Annual Plan.
BATON ROUGE, La. (June 11, 2021) — Yesterday, the 2021 Louisiana Regular Legislative Session adjourned with a strong effort to protect funding for coastal restoration and prioritize community resilience, including unanimous passage of the Fiscal Year 2022 Coastal Annual Plan. The plan is the funding vehicle that supports the implementation of the 2017 Coastal Master Plan, the 50-year vision for priority coastal restoration and risk-reduction projects to restore and protect Louisiana’s coast.
The Annual Plan details how the Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority (CPRA) will dedicate $880 million to 125 active projects that will benefit over 57,000 acres of vulnerable wetlands and 109 miles of levee. Priority projects include the Houma Navigational Canal Lock, the Golden Triangle Marsh Creation and the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion.
The Louisiana Legislature also passed HB 2, the state’s Capital Outlay bill, which includes over $200 million in project requests for CPRA. These investments will provide economic stimulus and create jobs at a time when our state desperately needs both, even before they save lives and reduce the toll of future disasters. Additionally, $45.7 Million in surplus and other related funding was allocated to the Coastal Trust Fund, which will be used for various priority restoration projects, including the Mid-Basin Land Acquisition in Plaquemines Parish and coastwide non-structural risk reduction and restoration partnerships.
Additionally, legislators moved to free Louisiana from exorbitant interest expenses incurred through delays in construction of the $15 billion Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS). Provisions in the federal Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA) authorize federal renegotiations of debt repayments with non-federal interests. During the state’s 2021 Regular Legislative Session, lawmakers agreed with the WRDA allowance, authorizing the use of $400 million to pay back the first HSDRRS payment to the Corps of Engineers in the Fall of 2021. After the remaining payments are made in 2022 and 2023, the state will save nearly $1 billion dollars in interest that would have been obligated under the previous 30-year pay back plan.
State policymakers’ actions during this session reflect the nearly universal belief of Louisiana voters that their officials should prioritize the state’s coastal land loss crisis. Recent polling shows 98 percent of voters say officials should work to maintain as much of Louisiana’s coast as possible.
In response to these actions, Restore the Mississippi River Delta — a coalition of national and local conservation groups working together to address Louisiana’s land loss crisis including Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, Pontchartrain Conservancy and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana — released the following statement from Campaign Director Steve Cochran:
“We applaud the Louisiana Legislature on their continued prioritization of coastal restoration and protection at this pivotal moment in our state’s history. In the aftermath of last year’s record-breaking hurricane season and with the Gulf of Mexico inching closer every day, the threat to millions of people across our state, fish and wildlife, as well as businesses and vital infrastructure is ever increasing.
“We’re grateful for the engagement and leadership of key committees in both the State Senate and the House of Representatives, and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration and Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority officials during this past legislative session — their collective efforts to support coastal programs are invaluable.”
“Given the urgency of our land loss crisis, the state must continue to prioritize science and put available funding toward the best, most powerful coastal restoration projects as quickly as possible. Investments in coastal protection and restoration will significantly reduce the costs of future disasters and help create jobs and economic opportunities within Louisiana at a time when these are desperately needed.”