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Corps: $2.6B in Louisiana infrastructure, disaster money

January 20, 2022 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers will be getting $2.6 billion for Louisiana under the infrastructure and supplemental disaster acts, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday.

The disaster bill to help recovery from Hurricane Ida includes over $2 billion for flood prevention in Louisiana, he said. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill includes $643 million for 21 Louisiana coastal and water management projects.

“Our unrelenting message has been that Louisiana’s coastal crisis is a national crisis. Investments in coastal protection and restoration make life in south Louisiana possible, protect interstate commerce, and support major economic engines that supply goods and services to our entire country,” Edwards said. “Today’s federal investments show that we are being heard and rewarded for our good work.”

The disaster relief money includes $783 million for a hurricane protection project from New Orleans to Venice, which is on the ragged toe of the boot-shaped state; $453 million for the west shore of Lake Pontchartrain and $163 million for the Atchafalaya Basin.

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Earlier Wednesday, the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said it plans to spend nearly $1.3 billion in the fiscal year starting July 1, with 81% of that outlay going to construction.

The Corps money is unlikely to affect that total, but details will likely need reworking to provide state matches for federal projects, authority executive director Bren Haase said.

About 60% of the agency’s planned spending for fiscal 2023 will be coming from various funds set up to dole out settlements and fines from the BP oil spill of 2010.

“Fiscal Year 2023 is a pivotal moment for CPRA and our coast,” agency chairman Chip Kline said as the draft plan was presented Wednesday. “This year marks a historic number of large-scale dredging projects, significant investments in hurricane protection, and the start of construction activities on a first-of-its-kind diversion project.”

An environmental coalition called Restore the Mississippi River was enthusiastic.

“Today’s announcement marks a turning point in Louisiana’s coastal program,” campaign director Simone Maloz said.

“This investment follows one of the more devastating hurricane seasons in Louisiana’s history,” she continued. “With so many communities still rebuilding from recent storms, the urgency and importance of restoring wetlands and protecting vulnerable communities cannot be overstated.”

In other news, the coastal authority said $13.7 million from the settlement of a 2006 oil spill will restore about 400 acres (160 hectares) of marsh in Cameron Parish. The settlement also will provide $1.5 million to create oyster reefs in lower Lake Calcasieu and $1.6 million for bird nesting habitat on an island in Terrebonne Parish.

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Citgo Petroleum Corp. agreed last year to pay $19.7 million to cover state and federal claims for environmental damage from 2.2 million gallons (8.3 million liters) of oil that overflowed from wastewater storage tanks in Lake Charles during a rainstorm.

The state coastal agency said its draft plans for fiscal 2023 cover 114 projects, including 67 in the southeast, 39 in south central Louisiana and eight in the southwest.

It plans to spend more than $1 billion on construction for 76 projects, $80 million on engineering and design of 33 others, and $11 million on planning five projects.

It said construction will begin in Plaquemines Parish on the state’s first huge project to divert sediment from the Mississippi River to build wetlands. The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion “has the capability to build and sustain thousands of acres of land that would provide increased storm surge protection to our vulnerable communities, provide necessary habitats to sustain a productive estuary for fish, wildlife, and industry, and bring billions in economic benefit to the surrounding parishes,” a news release said.

It said 18 dredging projects will create or nourish more than 14,000 acres (5,600 hectares) of coastal wetlands.

“CPRA has remained unwavering in our commitment to fortifying Louisiana’s coast from Holly Beach to Hopedale,” said executive director Bren Haase.

The draft plan will be presented at public hearings beginning at 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday next week. Monday’s session will be in Lake Charles, Tuesday in Thibodaux, Wednesday in New Orleans and Thursday via Zoom.

Location details and a link to the virtual meeting are at https://mailchi.mp/la.gov/annualplan010521.