Manship School News Service/Caitie Burkes
State Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, speaks at Tuesday's meeting of the Select Committee on Coastal Restoration.
Allain: Restoration needs human touch
BATON ROUGE — The Senate Select Committee on Coastal Restoration and Flood Control left its Tuesday meeting knowing Louisiana could gain 802 more square miles of land in the next 50 years.
What they didn’t leave knowing, however, was what businesses and infrastructure would be saved if the state invested $50 billion in coastal restoration efforts over the next 50 years.
After the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority presented its 2017 proposed Coastal Master and Annual Plans, Sen. R.L. “Bret” Allain, R-Franklin, summed up the thoughts of his bipartisan colleagues.
“We need to look at the human aspects of the projects that we’re taking on,” Allain said. “When people start getting flooded, they don’t care where the water comes from. They just know that they’re getting flooded.”
The $50 billion plan would equally split $25 billion for restoration and risk reduction, with most of the money frontloaded toward restoration efforts. According to the CPRA’s website, some restoration projects include barrier island restoration, marsh creation, oyster barrier reef restoration, shoreline protection and diversions throughout the southeast and some of the southwest coastline.
The CPRA, which depends on both federal and state funding, expects the most controversy to arise with proposed sediment diversion projects.
“There are instances where the detractors speak a little louder than the supporters,” said Johnny Bradberry, executive assistant to the governor for coastal protection and coastal activities. Risk reduction projects would consist of structural projects, such as levees and floodgates, and nonstructural projects, such as residential voluntary acquisition and residential elevation.
Allain and other committee members asked CPRA representatives to consider why Louisiana residents should care about coastal restoration efforts and to avoid getting stuck in the “weeds of science.”
CPRA representative Bren Haase told the select committee the state has lost 1,900 square miles of land in the last 80 years. The Master Plan, he said, serves as a framework to make difficult decisions about what’s worth saving.
“It’s not simply a wish list of all the things we need to do,” Haase said. “It’s a realistic approach.”