Louisiana mounts offensive to keep key coastal funding program alive

Published: Sep. 5, 2016 at 1:34 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2016 at 7:29 PM CDT
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PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LA (WVUE) - A pipe running from the Mississippi River on the west bank of Plaquemines Parish sprays new land where there had been open water.

In recent years, the state of Louisiana and federal sponsors have built a 6-mile-long stretch of ridges and marsh accounting for 1,800 acres of new land.

"We've calculated about 1,650 (football fields)," said Johnny Bradberry, chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, surveying the Bayou Dupont Sediment Diversion Project.

Most of the funding for Bayou Dupont came from the federal Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act or CWPPRA.

Bradberry said CWPPRA "has been a staple for us. We've installed a lot of projects."

Congress passed CWPPRA in 1990, funding the program through through a hodgepodge of taxes on sport fishermen and boaters around the country, everything from fishing tackle to motorboat taxes and import duties on recreational boats. About 70 percent of the funding goes to coastal projects in Louisiana, amounting to as much as $85 million annually.

"CWPPRA for a long time was the only game in town," said Simone Maloz, executive director of Restore or Retreat. "It was the only dedicated funding source."

Over the last quarter century, CWPPRA funding built more than 100 projects around the state, usually smaller ones in local parishes. Unless Congress extends the funding, it runs out in two years.

"Our fear is that someday someone will tell us, 'Louisiana, you've had enough,'" Maloz said.

State officials and coastal activists are pushing Louisiana's congressional delegation to keep the program alive.

They worry critics in budget-conscious Washington will question why Louisiana gets the funding, especially in light of the anticipated $9 billion in funding associated with fines and penalties from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

"It would put a pretty big hole in what we're trying to accomplish, for sure, and it would set us back," Bradberry said.

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