With tweaks, coastal plan heads to La. lawmakers

03-21-2012 // Cain Burdeau, Associated Press

This excerpt is from The News Star (via Associated Press)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A $50 billion, 50-year proposal aimed at stopping coastal land loss in Louisiana was approved unanimously Wednesday by a governor's panel and moved on to the state Legislature.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority approved a series of changes to a draft report issued in January, but the basic strategies of the original plan were retained: river diversions to create land and new levee systems to protect coastal communities.

David Muth of the National Wildlife Federation called the plan a major accomplishment. "If we don't restore the delta, we're done for. There won't be any coastal communities, including New Orleans."

The plan now moves on to the state Legislature for its approval.

Funding the plan remains uncertain. But Gov. Bobby Jindal's coastal team says the state has a good chance of getting $50 billion over the next 50 years from a variety of sources, including offshore oil and natural gas drilling royalties, federal environmental programs and from what BP PLC may be forced to pay in fines and ecosystem restoration for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill.

Several changes were approved by the CPRA Wednesday, based on concerns heard at public hearings.

Due to opposition from fishermen, the plan now specifies that up to half of the Mississippi River's flow will be diverted only when the river is running at its peak flow. Fishermen have long complained that river diversions hurt fisheries.

Also, state planners now say they want to better study a proposed levee system around Lake Charles and a storm surge barrier at Lake Pontchartrain. Another change is a decision to accelerate construction of a new levee system around Lafitte, a fishing town outside New Orleans that regularly floods. The plan also calls for adding a flood control structure at Bayou Chene near Morgan City to protect against river flooding. The revised plan also shifted or scrapped several smaller projects across the coast.

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