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Coast Overflowing, But Not the Money to Fix It

You hear the cliché that we lose a football field every hour? Well, we’ve kind of improved that a little bit,” Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority director Johnny Bradberry told the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday. “We’re losing a football field every hundred minutes – which is still a bad situation.”

It's one example of what the CPRA has been able to do in ten years – partly thanks to Bradberry, who, as DOTD Secretary in 2007, pushed lawmakers to create the coastal agency.

We understand the very dynamics of our coast, and we’ve got the expertise needed to take decisive action,” Bradberry said, as he ticked off the accomplishments on his fingers. “We’ve got project results that are very encouraging. We’re seeing projects really perform better than we thought they would.”

When the CPRA began, they were battling 1900 square miles of coastal land loss over 75 years, exacerbated by the Mississippi River levees built in response to the Great Flood of 1927. Bradberry says climate change and sea level rise is accelerating the erosion today.

If we did nothing, point forward, what would be the consequences -- a future without action, as we would say? In 50 years – worst case – we’d lose another 4000 square miles.”

In preparing for the latest version of the Coastal Master Plan approved this past spring, Bradberry says they identified 209 needed projects, at a total cost of $250-billion. They scaled back though, to $50-billion worth of work over the next 50 years.

124 projects brought the most value and had the most impact, and we’d add 802 square miles of land over this 50 year period,” he said of the projects included in the 2017 Coastal Master Plan.

There’s still the question of how to pay for that.

You hear a lot about the money we have – it’s overflowing right? Well, that’s not exactly the case. I come up with about 18 to 19 billion dollars. That leaves me $32-billion short.”

And that, Bradberry says, often keeps him up at night – especially with much of the so-called “guaranteed” $18-19-billion coming from federal cost-sharing programs such as GOMESA and CWPRA. He says CWPRA is due for re-authorization within the next year, and Louisiana's congressional delegation has had to remain vigilant to prevent the defunding of GOMESA.

I mean, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that what’s at stake is our livelihoods, our culture. It’s our homes; it’s our jobs.”