Monday, July 11th Gov Bobby Jindal, along with other local and state officials, revealed his plans for restoring Louisiana’s coastal areas, fisheries, and oyster seed grounds from the destructive effects of the BP oil spill. He says that the state will seek approval for more than a half billion dollars in restoration projects to repair coastal areas and fisheries affected by last year’s oil disaster. BP has already agreed to spend $1 billion in April of this year, a pact with the federal government and the five Gulf States. Through the $1 billion agreement from BP, the five Gulf states get $100 million each and the federal government will get $200 million. The remaining $300 million with be divvied out to projects deemed the most urgent, here, Louisiana hopes to get the majority of that $300 million, and to see a share of the $200 million federal portion spent on projects here on our own shores. Of the $1 billion, Jindal’s “Louisiana Plan” details projects that will restore wetlands, improve barrier islands and eroded shorelines, build ridges, breakwaters and land bridges to protect existing shorelines. “We expect to receive a fair share, a disproportional share, of those dollars, based on the amount of damage that happened to our coast,” Jindal said. He continued, citing a number of reports and federal statistics on which the coast of Louisiana received 92 percent of the heavily and moderately oiled shoreline, and than most of the birds, mammals, fish and other wildlife were also heavily affected. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell noted that not only Louisiana will be requesting shares of the money, other states represented on the council of trustees will be making cases justifying their regions own need. “Every state has a seat at the table,” Caldwell said, additionally stating that the Jindal administration has put together a thorough list of proposed projects that Jefferson Parish President John Young calls “shovel ready.” Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves, will present Jindal’s projects next week to a committee of trustees representing the Gulf states and other federal agencies, where it must be approved and subsequently approved by BP.
Among the states affected by the oil spill, Louisiana developed their plan of more than 350 proposals from the public, parishes and state agencies, while other states are still holding hearings to request projects to submit for the funding. Jindal focuses on the Louisiana oyster industry, requesting $15 million from BP to rebuild the state’s once thriving oyster industry. In a recent report, BP claims that the Louisiana oyster industry was not affected by the oil but by the freshwater diversions along the Mississippi River. Understanding this, Jindal’s projects counters BP’s report by providing information where the freshwater diversions were an effort to keep oil out of fragile wetland habitats, and therefore a subsequent result of the oil spill.
The governor’s plans include a $12 million oyster project to position clutch materials on 855 acres of public oyster grounds in parts of Mississippi Sound, Lakes Fortuna, Lake Machias, Hackberry Bay, Lake Chien, Sister Lake, and Calcasieu Lake, with $3 million improving oyster hatcheries at Grand Isle. Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes would receive more than $146 million directed at improving and restoring their fisheries and coastal areas. In Lafourche, the state has already set aside $77 million of the $220 million needed for the Caminada headland project, which will re-establish 2,066 acres of beach, 7-foot-high sand dunes and marshes between Belle Pass and Caminada Pass on Fourchon and Elmer’s Island. In response to Jindal’s plan, Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet expressed his support saying, “We were one of the most impacted parishes, and I think we got our fair share.”
Many projects throughout South Louisiana focus on defending eroding islands, building breakwaters, rebuilding shorelines, and constructing wetlands. $9 million would go towards restoring 120 acres on the southwest side of grand Terre Island, and another $3 million would be used to create rock shorelines to reduce sediment erosion on the island. Grand Isle Bay would receive $3.3 million for the construction of six breakwaters, each about 300 feet long, totaling 1.5 miles which would protect homes and businesses. $44 million would go towards Chenier Ronquille Barrier Island Restoration. Biloxi Marsh Shoreline protection plan, $45 million, would create a 7 mile breaker structure to protect wetlands from erosion along the south east shoreline of Lake Borgne. $13.9 million would develop 97.5 acres of new marsh in Lake Hermitage, Plaquemines Parish. Eight miles out of Morgan City, the Caillou Lake land bridge project, $71 million, would protect and re-establish 1,600 acres of salt marsh habitat. $31 million is proposed in the Grand Liard Marsh and Ridge Restoration project, which would establish 328 acres of marsh and restore 140 acres of existing wetlands. Chandeleur Island restorations include future planning with the Interior Department and Mississippi to propose a plan aimed at restoring the chain of barrier islands, $65 million.
The governor’s proposal also repeats a previous request for $48 million to set in motion a Louisiana Marine Fisheries Enhancement and Science Center which would be used for hatcheries and research labs in Plaquemines, Grand Isle and in southwest Louisiana.
These projects are only the first proposed plans by the Jindal administration, and more will be financed by future BP payments. “Parts of our shoreline are still oiled today and it is critical for this work to begin immediately so we can start to reverse the damage done to our natural resources even while we continue to hold BP accountable,” Jindal said. “Yet again, we are here to say that we cannot afford to wait. We are taking action.”