Louisiana News

Louisiana coastal authority approves billion-dollar spending plan in 'virtual' meeting

(The Center Square) – Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority on Wednesday approved a $1.08 spending plan for next fiscal year in a “virtual” meeting held online.
As part of the state’s COVID-19 response, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an executive order this week that allows government entities to hold public meetings by teleconference and video conference if they are otherwise unable to operate because of quorum requirements.
“All efforts shall be made to provide for observation and input by members of the public,” the governor’s proclamation says.
The CPRA included a public comment period during its brief online meeting, in which the spending plan was the only item on the agenda. The plan next goes to the Louisiana Legislature for approval, which currently is suspended until at least March 31 as part of the nationwide effort to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.
The spending plan approved Wednesday is not a budget. It is a plan to spend anticipated revenue if the money materializes as expected.
Funding sources include state surplus dollars, state mineral revenue, federal revenue sharing from offshore energy production, and settlement payments stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. No state general fund dollars are included.
CPRA recently learned it would receive about $124 million in federal revenue sharing through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, rather than the $70 million officials expected in December, allowing the authority to include additional projects, CPRA Executive Director Bren Haase said. Edwards has proposed dedicating $115 million of the state surplus to the coastal fund.
If legislators approve the plan, the fiscal year that begins July 1 could be the first year Louisiana spends more than $1 billion on coastal restoration. Louisiana’s 50-year plan to protect and restore the state’s fragile coastal region is expected to cost about $50 billion in total, Haase noted.
Of the $1.08 billion, about $804 million is expected to be spent building 68 projects meant to benefit about 61,000 acres and produce about 118 miles of levees. The rest of the money is dedicated to planning, engineering and design.
The plan also envisions spending $1.15 billion in fiscal year 2022 and $1.11 billion in fiscal year 2023. Those numbers will be re-evaluated in next year’s planning process.
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