Coastal parishes hope to tap into billions of federal dollars for restoration and flood projects

“RISEE ACT” would share oil, gas and wind energy revenue with states.
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 10:42 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In Terrebonne Parish, south of Dulac, a flood control project on the Houma Navigational Canal reclaims some lost land.

Contractors are dredging one million cubic yards of material to build 178 acres of wetlands and provide a buffer near the levee.

The project is part of the site preparation in phase one of the HNC Lock Complex, a $380 million project adjacent to the existing Bubba Dove Floodgate.

“It doesn’t get much better than that, both environmentally and from a project standpoint,” said Reggie Dupre, Executive Director of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District.

The HNC lock is the latest element of the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane system, 98 miles of levees, floodgates and water control structures in Terrebonne and South Lafourche.

The lock, which will include 110-foot-wide sector gates, is designed to allow a longer window of opportunity for navigation adjacent to the floodgate.

During gate closures, Dupre said the lock will allow vessels to travel in either direction on the HNC, enabling officials to close the floodgate earlier and keep it closed longer.

That will bring the additional benefit of allowing less salt water to flow up the canal and into the surrounding wetlands.

“To think that we’re actually constructing the Houma Navigational Canal Lock Complex right now is something that I didn’t see happening in my lifetime,” said Mitch Marmande of Delta Coast Consultants.

Until now, Terrebonne Parish had taken a largely do-it-yourself approach to hurricane protection, funding the first parts of the Morganza through local tax sources.

“There’s over a billion dollars of the $3.2 billion project that, really, the state and locals built on their own,” said Henri Boulet, Executive Director of the Morganza Action Coalition.

The lock is a joint project between the parish levee system and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

However, significant federal dollars have started to flow toward the effort of protecting coastal communities.

65 percent of the funding for the lock comes through the federal RESTORE ACT, from fines and penalties associated with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Louisiana’s coastal communities are closely watching plans in Washington that could set aside more money for coastal projects and flood protection.

Two weeks ago, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies and Ecosystems Act, or RISEE.

Currently, Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states share in federal oil revenues from leases in the Gulf. The RISEE ACT would raise more revenue by lifting the provision that caps the overall funding at $375 million per year.

For the first time, it would allow Louisiana and its neighbors to collect funding from offshore wind production in federal waters, depending on how close the wind turbines are to state borders.

The legislation requires states spell out how they will spend the money.

Senator Bill Cassidy, a co-sponsor of the bill, pointed out in committee that Louisiana’s state constitution already requires such funding be spent on coastal and flood efforts.

“We have plans, we have science, we know what we need to do to be safer,” said Kimberly Davis Reyher, Executive Director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. “We need the funding to do it.”

The RISEE ACT would set aside 37.5 percent of the revenue from wind leases for the states.

“New research tells us that there are big opportunities and we’d like to see the sector grow. There’s evidence already that it’s growing,” Davis Reyher said.”

Terrebonne Parish sees a potential source of new funding for its levees.

“Finishing this massive project is vitally important for this part of Louisiana,” Dupre said.

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