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State leaders blast Trump plan to end funding program for coastal protection

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Gov. John Bel Edwards and members of Louisiana's congressional delegation blasted a new budget proposal from President Donald Trump Tuesday, after he released a spending plan that calls for the elimination of a major source of funding for Louisiana's effort to protect the coast.

Former Sen. Mary Landrieu helped push through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, the year after Katrina and Rita struck and Louisiana's vulnerable coast became a national issue. GOMESA takes offshore oil revenues that once went to the federal treasury and puts it toward coastal restoration in Louisiana and three other Gulf states.

"This is one of those moments we have to remind the nation why those dollars were important," said Mark Davis with the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.

The Trump administration has proposed the repeal of GOMESA, which is just about to hit a sweet spot. Louisiana's coastal protection effort was expected to get $140 million this year from the fund.

"It would  be a huge setback. Other than the settlement from BP, it's really the only long-term money on the horizon," said David Muth with the National Wildlife Federation.

"This proposal would set us back decades," Edwards said.

Not only would the elimination of the GOMESA funds hurt the state's coastal restoration effort, but it will also hurt the state's ability to maintain  newly installed levee systems.

"That's exactly right, and for the upgrades of the levees does the state owe billions to the federal government. This is where a lot of those dollars were going to come from," said Davis.

This isn't the first time GOMESA funds were threatened. Former president Obama also proposed a repeal, which was beaten back.

"If Louisiana doesn't show up to make the argument, then the odds of losing it next year or beyond go up," said Davis.

The state and its coastal needs had the nation's attention when GOMESA was passed in 2006. It remains to be seen if that's still the case.

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