Posted on June 28, 2023
Louisiana’s latest version of a Master Plan to combat land loss and protect coastal communities from rising waters and hurricanes was approved by its coastal board earlier this month.
The 50-year, $50-billion plan is the fourth version of the strategic document to combat coastal erosion and flooding in most of southern Louisiana, where natural resources, communities and wetland ecosystems are especially at risk. The 2023 Master Plan mentions 77 projects, ranging from dredging to sand pumping for marsh rebuilding to infrastructure projects, including floodgates and levees.
“The plan does not set aside $50 billion dollars in funding for coastal restoration/protection projects. The Master Plan outlines $50 billion worth of projects that, through extensive modeling and research, have demonstrated they would have the most benefit for our coast if implemented over a 50-year period,” said Marina Clay, an official with the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA).
If action isn’t taken, the damage could cost upwards of $15.2 billion to $24.2 billion annually, the plan states. But if implemented, the plan could save between $10.7 billion to $14.5 billion annually. Officials estimate that more than two million people in the region are threatened by floods.
Added to the 2023 Master Plan were four bridge projects located along the state’s coastline that with a total valuation of approximately $75 million. Two bridges are located in Vermillion Parish, one in Terrebonne Parish and another in St. Bernard Parish.
Other major projects include the $1.7-billion, 31-mile Iberia-St. Martin Upland Levee and the 28-mile, $1.4-billion Lafitte Ring Levee.
The plan calls for $16 billion in marsh creation by dredging and restoring coastal shorelines and ecosystems, and another $14 billion to build earthen levees, concrete T-walls and floodgates to reduce structural risks. Overall, the plan sets aside $11 billion for structural risk.
The CPRA estimates it will cost $2.9 billion to build land bridges, consisting of linear tracks of constructed marshes. Diversion projects to restore historic deltaic processes would receive nearly $3 billion to construct new land and feeding existing wetlands. Finally, $230 million is slated for hydrologic restoration to allow water flow to aid a healthy ecosystem.
Krista Jankowski, a senior scientist in strategic planning and plan development at CPRA, said, “Although much of our funding comes from the Deepwater Horizon settlement, the state is also drawing funding from grants, revenue sharing from Gulf offshore oil and gas revenue, federal and state allocations and other sources.” The Deepwater Horizon settlement funds run out in eight years. Those funds come from BP’s settlement related to its massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
State and local officials are working “diligently” to gain support for legislation that would give Louisiana a greater share of the revenues from energy produced off the state’s coast. Louisiana is also considering how offshore wind and carbon crediting could serve as additional sources of revenue for coastal projects, Jankowski said.