On February 21, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Board (CPRA) approved the Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Plan, a three-year outlook of projected revenues and expenditures, project activity and implementation schedules. The plan identifies $17.7 billion in marsh creation projects using dredged material.
In 2007, Louisiana State released the “Integrated Ecosystem and Restoration and Hurricane Protection: Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast.” At the time, Governor Bobby Jindal by way of executive order, directed all state agencies to administer their activities in accordance with the 2007 plan recommendations.
To accommodate the dynamic nature of coastal systems, the plan would be a living document to be updated every five years, incorporating new data and planning tools. Two updates have been submitted and approved through the Louisiana legislature since the original in March 2012 and April 2017. In 2009, the state legislature directed CPRA to produce an annual plan each year to inventory projects, implementation schedules and identify funding opportunities. The latest master plan was adopted by the Louisiana Legislature in April 2017.
In 1990, Congress authorized the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) to identify, prepare and fund construction of coastal wetlands restoration projects. In 2015, CWPPRA celebrated 25 years with 150 projects and 100,000 acres of restored wetlands. (Read more about those projects in the IDR Nov/Dec 2015 issue.)
CWPPRA is managed by a task force of members from the state and five federal agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. For FY19, the state will administer funds for the implementation of 21 CWWPRA Phase 1 projects (engineering and design), and 10 CWWPRA Phase 2 projects (construction and monitoring).
CWWPRA projects with appropriated funding in the FY19 budget include the Northwest Turtle Bay Marsh Creation in Barataria Basin in Jefferson Parish at $33.6 million. Wetland loss in the area stems from shoreline erosion along Turtle Bay and interior marsh loss from subsidence, sediment deprivation and construction of oil and gas canals. The plan aims to create approximately 700 acres of marsh with dredged material from Turtle Bay or Little Lake. This would create marsh habitat in the open water (484 acres) and nourish existing marsh (216 acres).
The Cameron-Creole Watershed Grand Bayou Marsh Creation project will receive $28.1 million for restoring and nourishing hurricane-scoured marsh in the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge and adjacent brackish marshes of the Calcasieu Lake estuary. Approximately 3 million cubic yards of material will be dredged from a borrow site proposed in Calcasieu Lake and placed into two marsh creation areas north of Grand Bayou to restore 609 acres and nourish approximately 7 acres of brackish marsh.
In Terrebonne Basin, the Lost Lake Marsh Creation project will receive $31.5 million to create approximately 465 acres of marsh between Lake Pagie and Bayou DeCade, north of Bayou DeCade, and along the northwestern Lost Lake shoreline. Material will be taken from within Lost Lake and pumped via a hydraulic dredge into the marsh creation sites.
The Cole’s Bayou Marsh Restoration project received $25.6 million to create 365 acres of brackish marsh in newly formed shallow open water; nourish 53 acres of existing brackish marsh; and increase freshwater and sediment inflow into interior wetlands by improving project area hydrology. Material will be dredged from nearby Vermilion Bay. The project will encourage additional freshwater nutrient and sediment inflow from Freshwater Bayou Canal by dredging a portion of Cole’s Bayou along with the installation of a series of culverts throughout the project area.
The annual plan also chronicles some of CPRA’s successes in accomplishing goals and projects (completed and on-going) during the past fiscal year. Some of last year’s notable projects include Oyster Bayou Marsh Creation and Terracing project. In Cameron Parish, dense marsh once protected the area from storm surge. Sediment was dredged from three miles offshore to create and nourish marsh in an area behind the Gulf Beach Highway. The marsh creation project encompasses four areas totaling 740 acres, including a 135-acre expansion of the original footprint. The sediment is held in place by over 50,000 linear feet of earthen containment dikes.
The Bayou Bonfouca Marsh Creation project restored 620 acres of marsh, nourished 310 additional acres and reestablished the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline rim that was breached during Hurricane Katrina near Bayou Bonfouca, allowing saltier water to degrade the marsh. It had been turning into open water at an increasing rate, mostly through wind-driven erosion and shorelines breaches that allowed saltwater to intrude into the fresher interior marshes. The project used sediment dredged from the lake.
The chain barrier islands are Louisiana’s first line of coastal defense. At a Louisiana barrier island, part of the Caillou Lake Headlands, Whiskey Island is being refurbished with sand dredged from offshore. Approximately 10.4 million cubic yards of dredged material was removed from a borrow area nine miles offshore. The project will create 172 acres of marsh habitat and 730 acres of dune and beach habitat. Almost five miles of beach and dune are being created using sand from Ship Shoal in the Gulf of Mexico, along with restoration of the marsh platform along the western half of the island. Restoration of the island provides a buffer to help reduce the full force and effects of wave action, saltwater intrusion, storm surge and tidal currents on associated estuaries and wetlands. It also provides wetland habitat for a diverse number of plant and animal species. This project was paid for with funds from the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resources Damage Assessment Early Restoration Program.
Deepwater Horizon Recovery Funds
Louisiana coastal restoration projects got a boost in funding for 2017, following the first of 15 annual payments to the state from Deepwater Horizon funds. The settlement with BP, combined with prior Deepwater Horizon-related settlements and recoveries, total $8.7 billion over 15 years.
The Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) is the process used by Natural Resource Trustees to develop a claim for natural resource damages against the responsible party or parties for an oil spill. In April 2011, the trustees and BP announced an agreement, committing BP to provide $1 billion toward implementing early restoration projects. This was the initial step toward BP fulfilling its obligations as a responsible party to fund complete restoration. About $370 million went to early restoration projects.
In February 2016, the Deepwater Horizon Trustees released the Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PDARP/PPEIS), to establish the framework for allocating the $8.7 billion from Deepwater Horizon funds.
In January 2017, Louisiana finalized its first post-settlement, project-specific restoration plan, which approved approximately $22.3 million in engineering and design work for six restoration projects.
In 2017, of the $267 million allocated from Deepwater Horizon funds, $22 million from NRDA was allocated for the engineering and design for the Terrebonne Basin Ridge and Marsh Creation.
In 2012, Congress passed the Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (the RESTORE Act), which dedicates 80 percent of all Clean Water Act penalties related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. In February 2013, Transocean Deepwater Inc. agreed to pay $1 billion to resolve federal CWA penalties associated with the oil spill.
In December 2015, a final judgment was issued against Anadarko Petroleum Corporation for CWA penalties in the amounts of $159.5 million for its role in the oil spill. Finally, as part of the April 2016 BP consent decree, BP agreed to pay $5.5 million for CWA civil penalties. Under the RESTORE Act and over a 15-year period, these settlements totaling $988.4 million will go to the state of Louisiana and $876.8 million will be allocated to CPRA for implementation of master plan projects.
On January 18, 2017, the state’s first amended RESTORE Plan was approved by the CPRA board. The U.S. Department of Treasury and the RESTORE Council approve expenditures of the funds. In March 2017, Louisiana became the first state to have a plan accepted by both for the expenditure of all its funds.