(The Center Square) – Louisiana is getting $26.7 million as part of a $366 million project to restore coastal marshland and defend against hurricanes, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority announced Tuesday.
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, or RESTORE Council, issued the grant, which is paid for with fines associated with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The new grant will pay for dredging 1.2 million cubic yards of dirt to begin construction of a lock complex adjacent to the Bubba Dove Floodgate on the Houma Navigation Canal, officials said.
The lock complex, considered a key component of the Morganza to the Gulf Hurricane Protection system, is designed to reduce saltwater intrusion and distribute fresh water within the Terrebonne Basin while also providing hurricane protection when the floodgate and lock are closed to block storm surges. Hydrologic restoration will reestablish about 178 acres of brackish marsh habitat, while the lock will enable greater flexibility in operating the floodgate by allowing boats to transit the flood control structure while the floodgate remains closed, officials said.
CPRA Chairman Chip Kline said all the work on the Morganza to the Gulf system has been accomplished without federal taxpayer dollars.
“This project will reinforce the ecosystem recovery we are seeing in the freshened areas behind the Morganza levees, with the added benefit of making a good storm protection system even better,” Kline said in a prepared statement. “In the few short years since construction began on these levees, flood walls, and flood gates, the portions built have dramatically reduced storm surge damage to people and homes in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes.”
Reggie Dupre Jr., a former state legislator who directs the Terrebonne Levee & Conservation District, said the Morganza system has proven its value.
“The storm surge in 2005 from Hurricane Rita flooded about 11,000 homes in this area, but with the system we’ve built, only 11 homes took on water after a similar surge from Hurricane Barry in 2019 and the numerous named storms in 2020,” Dupre said. “From 11,000 down to 11 – I call that a pretty good start. But the storms won’t stop coming, so we won’t stop improving our system.”
The RESTORE Act contains five funding components, one of which directs 30% of the money to each of the five Gulf Coast states for ecological and economic restoration. To get money from that pot, states must submit a plan to the RESTORE Council. Louisiana’s plan identifies $366 million for the Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex over 15 years.