Delta Dispatches: Financing the 2017 Coastal Master Plan
On today’s show Charles Sutcliffe, Director of Policy and Programs at Louisiana Governor’s Office joins the program to talk with Jacques & Simone about financing for coastal restoration in Louisiana.
Below is a transcript of this week’s Delta Dispatches Podcast. Subscribe to our feed in iTunes and Google Play.
Jacques: Hello. You are listening to Delta Dispatches. We’re discussing Louisiana’s Coast, its people, wildlife, and jobs and why restoring it matters. I’m Jacques Hebert with Audubon Louisiana and joining me on the phone today, or at least for a part of today, is Simone Maloz.
Alright. Well, as a reminder, if this is your first time tuning in to WGSO 990 AM to listen to Delta Dispatches, you can always catch old episodes and review all of our previous episodes at deltadispatches.org. We are also in the midst of scoping. We’ve discussed scoping on a prior episode, but basically the Army Corps of Engineers is taking public comment on a key restoration project in Plaquemines Parish, the Mid-Barataria settlement diversion, and that scoping comment period is open until September 5th, so you can go online at missippiriverdelta.org/takeaction and give comments to the Army Corps of Engineers about why this project is crucial and things you want them to consider as part of the environmental impact statement.
On today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about a really important topic. One that we’ve touched on in the past. And that is financing for coastal restoration here in Louisiana. We’ve talked about the funding sources and the fact that Louisiana does have significant funding to get a lot of large-scale restoration done. But, there are also challenges that come with that, so we’re going to be talking to Charles Sutcliffe with the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities as well as Simone who Restore or Retreat is partnering with CPRA on this coastal financing initiative that we’re going to hear a little bit more about from both Simone and Charles later in the show.
For now, it’s been a really, really busy week. I know you’ve been traveling all over the place, Simone, so I know you were in Morgan City yesterday for the monthly CPA board meeting. How did that go?
Simone: It was good. It was good. Morgan City was a really nice host and it’s always fun when they do their summer road show. They take their meetings on the road in the summer and they go to different parishes. It’s a really nice way to highlight some of the local activities going on. So, certainly that’s how they kicked off. They talked about, they had a really good explanation by the CPRA Regional Coordinator just to talk about the different restoration projects happening in that area. We also had an update from the levy district about what was going on. We had an update on Roseau cane, which we’ve, of course, talked about on our show. Brady Couvillion was there, again, another previously Delta Dispatches guest, who talked about his land lock survey. It was a really great day all around. Talked about NSIT. Also, very important recognize Bren Haase, another previous guest of Delta Dispatches and recognized Bren’s work on the passage of the 2017 master plan, so it was a nice trip to Morgan City.
Jacques: Right, and a packed agenda and definitely a very well-deserved award and recognition to Bren Haase for all of his work in getting the 2017 master plan pulled together and then through unanimous passage and the state legislature. I know they highlighted a lot of progress that’s being made in projects in southwest and central Louisiana in your neck of the woods. Where there any exciting updates on some of the projects happening there?
Simone: Yeah. We work on a PTO project called Increase the Atchafalaya that’s really just a trap to tap into the fresh water of the Atchafalaya and bring it into parts of Terrebonne that’s most needed. But they have actually a lot of cool things going on in SW Louisiana. The CPRA started something a couple of weeks ago and they started this really great recap. They had a recap after yesterday’s meeting and sent it out as an e-blast, and then at the end of the week they also do a recap of the news that’s happening. So, they do a really great service there so we would encourage folks to go to CPRA and to sign up and they can receive those notices. They receive the notice about the meetings, then they receive the agenda and then they can receive notices after the meeting and then that week we recap along with lots of other great stuff. So, I know that you enjoy having that resource, too.
Jacques: It’s been very helpful to hear what’s in the news from week to week, and then of course, like you mentioned, you get all of those announcements for the different meetings that are happening. A lot of times they happen around the state, so sometimes you may be able to go to a meeting in your area, so what is the website, Simone, for CPRA where people can go and sign up for their newsletter?
Simone: Sure, it’s really easy. It’s coastal.la.gov, you’ll also see there are some really other great resources. Again, things that we talk about on the show, like their flood risk and resiliency viewer and interactive project map. Lots of other great resources there, too, Jacques.
Jacques: Right. Well, going back to your busy week, and today was no less busy and we’re going to talk about that, too.
Simone: We can talk about your week.
Jacques: Well, yeah. My week hasn’t been as exciting as yours. It’s kind of been a boring week, but you were at a meeting that included Congressman Garret Graves with the South Central Industrial Association meeting, and I know that the congressman gave some important updates. But, it’s really about GOMESA, which we’ve talked about a lot on this show. So, any exciting news out of that meeting?
Simone: Yes. Garrett Graves is the guest speaker, as you mentioned at the monthly meeting. The South Central Industrial Association is just a really great industry group located, obviously, in south central Louisiana, but they have a really long standing history in our area. They have a really dynamic executive director that I’m sad to see is going to retire this year, Jane Arnett. But, Garrett was the guest speaker. He gave his usual dynamic speech, but he touched on GOMESA and mentioned that is going to be included in the budget as it moves forward though the process and as we know, following bills, it takes a lot to get a pass on some of these things, but it’s definitely going to be included in the start. So, that’s a really great first move.
Jacques: That’s great, and you know, that’s what we’ve hit on from the beginning. As soon as we heard that GOMESA was threatened is that our congressional delegation has been on lock stop about the importance of GOMESA and protecting it. That’s great to hear. In terms of other relevant topics in the news. It’s interesting, Simone, we were really hitting on some good topics in our show, because you’re seeing them come back up in meeting and in the news, but there were some news about Nutria and the coast-wide nutria control program. They are paying registered participants $5 per nutria harvested November 20th through March 31st each year. The registration is free and you can go online to nutria.com to register if you want to hunt and trap and really help control the population of this invasive species that actually does a lot of damage to our coastal wetlands and we’ve had folks from CWPPRA on to talk about that and talk about their program.
Just a quick fact, the 2015-2016 season about 350,000 nutria tails were collected in Terrebonne alone over 90,000 and then the next parishes were St. Martin and Plaquemines that 50,000 and 46,000. It’s a really important program. If you’re interested, you can again, go to nutria.com as well as … Yeah, that’s probably the best website for you to go to and learn more about the program and learn how you can get registered.
Simone: They’ve done a really great job in outreach this year and tie in the fact that you can help with this issue. Sometimes we struggle with trying to connect how people can help with our issue and so they’ve done a really, really great job letting people know about how they can participate in the program this year.
Jacques: Awesome, and then also some news out of Terrebonne. One of the important barrier islands is Timbalier is moving forward and there was an article about that, I believe, in the Houma Courier. They received funding and the project is a barrier island that would help restore using nine million cubic yards of sand shoal from the Gulf of Mexico. That is another good sign to show that work is happening, progress is being made. We had Mark Sickles if Week’s Marine one recently to talk about the investments they’re making and you’re seeing this restoration happen across the coast. Good news for your folks in Terrebonne Lafourche with Eastern Blair is that right, Simone?
Simone: Yeah. East Timbalier’s is a really great project. It’s been around for a really long time and the best thing about East Timbalier is that while it’s technically located in Lafourche Parish, it definitely has restoration benefits for Terrebonne Parish. We’re getting good at restoring those barrier islands, but that’s an important one for the protection of Lafourche and Terrebonne. That’s going to be paid for with National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funds as part of those coast spill settlements. That’s nice to see that being put to work.
Jacques: We’re about to head into a break. Hopefully when we come back Simone will be with us in the studio, and we’ll also be joined by Charles Sutcliffe with the Governor’s office of Coastal Activities. We’re going to be talking about coastal financing. You’re listening to Delta Dispatches on WGSO 990 AM.
Jacques: Welcome back. You’re listening to Delta Dispatches on WGSO 990 am and just like that, Simone is in the studio.
Simone: Magic. You didn’t forget about me, huh?
Jacques: I didn’t.
Simone: I co-host the show, too, you remembered me, huh?
Jacques: You’re enjoying the air conditioning, now?
Simone: I know, it’s breezing in here. VJ likes to keep it cold.
Jacques: Well, it’s hot out there, so-
Simone: That’s right. Welcome back. We’re going to talk to Charles Sutcliffe. I was with him earlier today. Charles, unfortunately, gets to talk to me several times a day especially as we work on this initiative together.
Jacques: My condolences, Charles. I’m just kidding. You’re a very lucky man.
Simone: I know, they have caller ID over there. So, I know when he doesn’t answer that he just doesn’t want to talk to me. Welcome to the show, Charles.
Charles: Thank you very much. Glad to be here.
Simone: Very glad to have you. We’re going to talk a little bit about you. You’re the Director of Policy and Programs for Louisiana’s Governor’s Office for Coastal Activities. You’ve been there awhile, six years. Before that you worked over as a Research Associate for LSU Division of Economic Development. You actually have a little bit of history in education, right? You have a Master’s Degree from New York University and went to LSU, right? Anything more we should know about you besides you have two cute little girls?
Charles: Yeah. That’s me in a nutshell. I’ve been back in town. After I went to New York, I went to Pittsburgh with my wife while she was in graduate school, but we’ve been back now for seven years and I’ve been with the governor’s office for six.
Simone: You missed the heat? The Louisiana heat that Jacques and I were just talking about?
Charles: That’s it. I missed the heat and the crawfish, all those things.
Simone: We had a really busy day. Like I said, we spent some time earlier together. We’ll talk about that in a little bit, but why don’t you tell us a little bit about your role at the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities. What do you do there?
Charles: Sure. I’m Director of Policy and Programs, so that means I do a little bit of everything. I work a lot with the Governor’s Advisory Commission, which is a pretty broad group of stakeholders. About 36 people on our board that just has an ongoing advisory role as it sounds like on all things coastal. I do a lot with that and it’s diversion sub-committee. I’ve been doing a lot of economic-related things related to coastal program, too, as well as a little of restore and a little bit of the legislature and a little bit of other things that come up.
Simone: As an avid listener, which I’m sure you are, your boss, Chip Kline, is an avid listener. I’m sure you all sit around on Mondays and listen to our show. We talked a lot about, obviously, the master plan and projects. We also talk a lot about the funding and just, frankly, how complicated it is. For a very long time, we asked people to speak out about GOMESA and talk about how important that is to Louisiana’s coastal program. Some folks just tuning in, can you help paint a big picture about how Louisiana will pay to restore its coast?
Charles: Sure. As your listener’s probably know, we’ve got this 50 billion dollar plan over 50 years. But, every year we have to take a bit out of that and we do that through our annual plans and we propose to the legislature. We show them we think our revenues are going to be, and what we think our expenditures are going to be based on those revenues. The last several years we’ve had 600 to 800 million dollars per year as our annual budget coming to these plans, and that number fluctuates because the different revenue streams that we tap into to build our projects fluctuate. Sometimes a federal program will be kicking in or will be winding down. Different things like that determine how much it is. We’ve been in that six to 800 million dollar range the last couple of years.
Jacques: Charles, can you paint a little bit of that big picture for looking forward. With the settlement we do have that steady source of funding over the next 15 years. How much are we talking about in total for funding?
Charles: If you add up all the different components of the BP oil spill revenues and some of the existing revenue streams that we’ve been using over the past few years, the next 10 to 15 year period is going to have about 10 to 11 billion dollars just for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. That is something that we can count on. These revenues are built into court documents and settlements and law so we think it’s going to be a huge opportunity for us the next decade, decade and a half to going to a lot of big projects done.
Simone: Charles, you and I both know that does sound like a lot of money and it is, it’s certainly a great start to help us implement the master plan. There are some challenges to some of the ways that the money’s coming in, right? Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Charles: There are challenges. CPRA has always dealt with a wide variety of different grant programs or federal programs or disaster response programs to make it all work. There’s always a juggling act that goes on. Even now, when we’re having a higher total number coming in, there’s still different restrictions where some revenue streams can only be used for barrier islands and diversions, for example. Other revenue streams are geared towards restoration only, but with little flexibility there. Others are more flexible overall. You have to match what the revenue stream is requiring with the project priorities that we have and try to implement the master plan in the best way as we go, based on what the revenues will allow.
Jacques: Great. Let’s talk on the flip side, Charles, about opportunities to maximize that funding. I know the Water Institute and Coat Builders put out a short white paper last year about the cost-saving opportunities that exist by getting restoration projections done more quickly by bonding. What are some of those opportunities that exist to do more with the money that is coming in?
Charles: The first opportunity, I think, is just the amount and the relative certainty that exists for it so we’re able to do ambitious projects. We’re looking at projects that are 250, 350, 400 million, even a billion dollars if you’re talking about some of these diversions. That’s an opportunity in and of itself. Then, on top of that, we know we have money for overtime, but our coastal problem is every day. We’re looking at is there a good reason to bond out money to move some projects further up in line rather than waiting a little bit for it. It’s going to depend a little bit on our capacity to build them, but also on the financial markets. If there’s too much of a financial cost in moving those projects up and doing those bonding transactions, then maybe things are fine if we just keep paying them as we go. We’re looking at that question right now.
Simone: Charles, we really want to get into what we did earlier today and talk a little bit about our partnership together, but Jacques and I like to keep it fun around here. You may or may not know that Jacques is currently in a competition and he has to compete … Can I talk about it or not because I already did?
Jacques: It’s an audition, but yeah.
Simone: It’s an audition. He’s going to audition for the 610 Stompers.
Simone: If you had to audition for the 610 Stompers, what would your audition song be?
Charles: Oh, this is not my style of music at all. This is … I might have to go something, some Pine Leaf Boys or some Cajun like that and then go with that.
Charles: Yeah, that’s about as close.
Simone: No Spice Girls?
Charles: No, no.
Simone: Tell me what you want.
Charles: Not my thing.
Simone: Alright, well Charles, thank you for being on with us. If you hold on with us through the break we really want to talk about our meeting this morning and what our partnership looks like. Hold on. Welcome to Delta Dispatches, we’ll be back after the break.
Jacques: Welcome back. You’re listening to Delta Dispatches. This is Jacque Hebert.
Simone: And I’m Simone Maloz.
Jacques: And we are honored to have Charles Sutcliffe with the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities. We’re talking about coastal financing today.
Simone: How fun.
Simone: And exciting.
Jacques: And very important.
Simone: Money, money, money.
Jacques: Can’t get much done without it.
Simone: That’ true.
Jacques: We were talking. Charles was painting a big picture for us before the break about funding for restoration, and we’ve talked about that on previous shows. But, we want to talk today about some news that came out recently about a partnership between CPRA.
Simone: Is there why I switch to be the interviewee.
Jacques: Yes, Simone. You switch from host to subject. A partnership with CPRA and Restore and Retreat. You guys are looking at coastal financing and trying to solicit ideas and input. Tell us a little bit about the partnership that you announced and what you are hoping to achieve it.
Simone: I’ll actually let Charles kick it off just to say why we think this is needed.
Charles: Sure. CPRA, we are science experts and engineering experts, but we are not finance experts, necessarily. We do have a lot of funding coming to us over the next 15 years and we want to reach out to financial experts and people that do bonds and other creative things to see what they see when they look at our revenues streams and can we get more projects done quicker or just more projects done in general if we implement some of these different financial instruments. We wanted to reach out to that different community than we’re used to dealing with and get some good advice so we can have a strategy going into this next 15 year period of good revenues.
Simone: From our standpoint at Restore and Retreat, we certainly knew how important the passage of the 2017 Master Plan was, but we certainly knew that was also a turning point that we were really moving from planning to large-scale implementation. While we were implementing projects on a project-by-project basis, we knew that this effort was really going to ramp up and we needed to think about things on a more programmatic scale and one of the projects we talk about a lot was Caminada and that was a really significant important project. We used mostly National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funds, but we also compiled together a few other funding sources. While that turned out to be almost a 200 million dollar project, we really want to do five Caminada’s a year or more. We want to take that example and take it to the next level. I totally agree with Charles. We are firm believers in the sound science of the master plan and we know that. We know that well enough about what we want our priorities to be on the science side, but we have to figure out how to pay for it. We thought it took almost a business-type outlook on something like that on how can we manage the cash.
Charles mentioned that a lot of these projects have tight ties to them. NFWF itself can only pay for diversions and barrier islands, so we wanted to really get a good handle on the funding streams that we have available right now, talk about repayment strategies from those committed resources. Is that a grant we have to pay back, or they pay us back? We have to have the cash up front, or can it be only spent on certain projects? Also, as Charles mentioned, we want to look at other things. Other options that are out there that we don’t know about, that other places are doing that’s very cook and we’ve gotten a really good read from the industry on some very neat things going on right now.
Jacques: I think we’ve mentioned this before, but there’s no one singular funding source for our restoration efforts and protection efforts. Similarly, there are different timelines, different requirements for all of these funding sources, so when you’re advancing a program as large as the Coastal Master Plan, with the number of projects that are involved and the amount of funding that’s on the table, you really need to tie that together in a way that is going to allow you to get projects constructed as quickly as possible. Is that the sort of thing that you’re hoping to-
Simone: Exactly. Exactly. Janice Lansing said it best today from CPRA, there’s all these restrictions on the money, so Restore Act has so many eligible uses. NRDA, which is really about natural damage resource, only certain projects fall under that, but then as we go through that process, the grants themselves have certain requirements and restrictions, so it’s multi-layered. Charles, maybe you can add to that.
Charles: That sounds pretty good.
Simone: I got it right. I’ve been hanging around you guys long enough that I know.
Jacques: What type of individuals or organizations are you really looking to connect with in this effort? How do you envision them getting involved?
Simone: Restore Retreat put out a statement of interest in qualifications and we put that out at the very beginning of August I think the third or the fourth. What we wanted to really do is find out who was interested and what were their backgrounds. We did the SIQ, which is a little different than a request for proposal that might be standard. We really wanted to know people’s team and who they might assemble, or who they might already have on their team and what their qualifications would be. We had an informational session this morning.
Jacques: How’d it go?
Simone: We had some great hosts at GNO Inc. We had over 40 people attend and very diverse backgrounds. Anybody from a large, very large national accounting firm to state-wide accounting firms. Think tanks, people who fund infrastructure. Attorneys who have clients that work in this space. It was really exciting to see the read.
Jacques: How was the session today for you, Charles?
Charles: I was excited, too, to see the level of interest and the variety of different groups that came to the table. One of the reasons, like Simone said, this request for interest first is just because we didn’t know what the response is going to be, because this project does straddle two worlds. You’ve got to understand the project side and the revenue streams that we have to work with but also the financial instruments that are going to be in play in between. I was very encouraged.
Jacques: We were mostly excited no one asked us tough of a question.
Charles: There was one super hard question. I think it was hard, I didn’t really understand the words that were used, but there was only one of those.
Simone: Somebody wrote it down. We hope to get back to them. Charles and I just said our line was going to be, “We’ll take that into consideration.”
Jacques: That’s a good line.
Simone: Like I said, they had lots of people in the room, but we also did a webinar so people could join in and participate. We’re going to post those presentations that we talked about online. Chip Kline was the previous guest and he talked about finances. Charles actually delivered that presentation again today so people could get an understanding of what we already know. And then we had a really good conversation about what we don’t know and what some other folks might know that we need to know more about. One of them is something called Pay for Success, which is a different kind of delivery model. I don’t know, Charles, if you want to touch on that a little bit.
Jacques: We can touch on that. The state has been kind of rolling out new ways to pay for projects or new ways to engage the private sector the last couple years. We’ve started a new thing to where we’re staring a NERDA bank. It’s kind of like a mitigation bank but geared more toward natural resource damages type of things, not for the BP oil spill, but for future smaller spills. That was one thing we rolled out and it’s getting ready to go live. This other one that we just came out with last session has to do with how CPRA is allowed to actually pay contractor’s back. We’ve gotten the flexibility on certain cases to pay out over a much longer period of time when we tie it to performance metrics that the contractor is going to have to meet. Instead of paying up front for 100 acres of marsh at a fixed cost, we can pay over the years to make sure that we’re getting all 100 acres as time goes on and we can still see that those projects meet the test, then the payments come out. When you do that it creates an opportunity to engage different kinds of investors as well built into that.
Simone: Charles makes a really important point. They have been rolling out several features at CPRA, but some of it does require legislation. This is just the first step, really, of what we think as a multi-step process to try to implement programmatic funding. We know that some of this will require legislative policy changes on the state level, maybe even the federal level and we want to know what’s on the table. We want everybody to put their cards on the table of what options are out there. Then, if there’s a legislative fix that’s needed, or something different, we can make that push to do that. We do think. Like I said, it’s multi-pronged, but this is the first step getting that underway.
Jacques: Tell us a little bit about the next step. Are you having more informational sessions and then if I am-
Simone: More? One’s enough. Golly.
Jacques: What are the next steps after this. If you’re an economist, you’re an accounting firm, whatever that wants to get involved, where can you go to learn more?
Simone: From today’s informational session, we are building a list of frequently asked questions. And then also, as I mentioned, we’re going to have those presentations posted online. We are using Restore or Retreat’s website, which is restoreorretreat.org/coastal-finance. That’s the one-stop shop that we’re putting everything. We have our initial announcement, we have a quick link to the SIQ’s. Charles wrote an amazing blog for us. Write that down, we need to talk to him about that. And then we’re putting all that information on that one website. People can still email and ask us questions, but the SIQ’s are due September 1st.
Jacques: We talk about the master plan being publicly informed, right? And that there’s a process where people can give input on the projects and this seems sort of similar. You’re going out and asking for expertise from people out in the field who this is their field.
Simone: It’s been so interesting, because Charles mentioned this earlier, this is a whole different set of people. We are used to seeing the same faces, a lot of the same faces on the science and engineering construction side, but this brings in a whole new group of people that are interested and invested. They want to know Louisiana’s future and they want to be part of its success. I hope Charles will hang on one more segment, Charles, please?
Simone: If you hang on, we’ll talk about that blog you wrote and finish out the discussion on this issue and talk about a few things coming up. You’re listening to Delta Dispatches on WGSO 990 AM.
Jacques: Welcome back. You’re listening to Delta Dispatches on WGSO 990 AM. I was just filling Simone in on the really intense process that is auditions for the 610 Stompers.
Simone: Yeah. I would have so quit. Actually I probably would have quit when they told me you had to be there at 8:00 on a Saturday morning.
Jacques: At Harras. It was interesting, but it was a lot of fun. That was the first round last weekend, and they raise a ton of money for charity so it’s a great organization.
Simone: That’s so New Orleans, right?
Jacques: I love them, they’re great. Anyway, enough about me and my stomper. But Charles, welcome back to the show.
Simone: Nice transition. Welcome back, Charles. Why don’t you tell us … I very sweetly asked you to write a blog for us and you very sweetly said you would, so why don’t you tell us about the blog that you wrote.
Charles: Well, I just wanted to lay out the why behind this project. It was a little bit of an advertisement. We do want to get the word out about this finance project that we’re working on but it was also just kind of putting this financial piece in context with the land loss crisis a little bit and shining a light on the complex questions that are out there that CPRA is grappling with like making sure that the project timelines that we know about line up with the cash flow. All these things, behind-the-scenes things that people might not think about when they think about this restoration effort that is implementing the master plan.
Jacques: Right. You can go to our website mississippiriverdelta.org to reach Charles’ blog and Charles, I really enjoyed it. I think you painted the financial picture in a way that’s really understandable and one of the things that I though was really powerful that you highlighted was talking about shifting from a reliance on disaster-related funding toward a more proactive long-term funding approach. Can you talk a little bit about what that means and why that shift is important?
Simone: We’ll play a drinking game for every time we talk about resilience, right Charles?
Charles: Well yeah, CPRA has done great things with the funds that have become available to it, but I think anybody recognizes that going from disaster to disaster and waiting for a check to come after the fact is the hard way to do it. It’s painful. It’s not sustainable and it’s not a good way to build resilience. I think the goal at the end of the day, and this is a long-term effort, there’s not one single silver bullet to get us there, but the goal at the end of the day is to have reliable funding year to year so it’s predictable, you know what you’re going to get, you can use it to plan around it, but it’s also enough to meet the long-term needs of the state. We’re not going to be protecting and restoring the coast just for the 50 years that master plans. It’s the way Louisiana is on the map. This is going to be something that we’re going to deal with for as long as we want to be here. I think we all need to start thinking about how we pay for it and those kinds of really long-term terms.
Simone: My favorite part was you said, the only thing worse than the deep water horizon oil spill would be failing to make the most out of the revenues that has provided. I think that’s really powerful. We do want to make use of that one-time funding opportunity but Charles has the vision to think about that long-term future and what it looks like. I’m teasing about resilience, but I think that’s something that we definitely have in common and it’s something that you are very interested in and good at. All kidding aside, what is resilience mean to you?
Charles: Oh, that’s one of those hard questions. It means a lot of different things. You should have asked me to think about that beforehand. Today’s answer I think it is I’m constantly learning and meeting really smart people that are working on this from a bunch of angles, but I think it’s not just about standing right back up after a disaster, but it’s the ability to stand up in a new way, if that makes more sense. Being able to evolve as you respond and to be there both in the long-term, but recognizing that you might have to look a little different as you do that, but being open to that and have the capacity to change as you move ahead.
Jacques: That’s a good answer. An important lesson for all of us in terms of … We’re not immune to disasters clearly, and what can we learn from them? What can we do to make ourselves more safe, more protected, stronger after the fact? Charles, I know 2017 has been a very big year for CPRA, you all released and unanimously passed through the legislature your master plan. I also know there’s a lot of projects that are ongoing from Whiskey Island to Bayou Bonfouca so what does the rest of the year look like for CPRA and what is your focus really, going into 2018?
Charles: Well, there’s a lot of big things to think on. The headline version of it is using the money that we have available in the best, most impactful way. I think that’s going to be key to whether you’re talking about long-term financing or approving to the people that are already giving you money that you’re a good investment. I think getting one of these diversions permitted and eventually built is going to be a game changer. Simone mentioned the Caminada project that was so big. We want to keep rolling out big projects like that. There are a lot of big policy things that we have to figure out this year, next year. Part two of the Restore Act is still up for grabs. The state of Louisiana has to compete for that money, as a 1.4 billion or so is left, and we want to figure that out so that we get as much as we can as that money because we want to put it towards these master plan projects. That’s a big thing and as you mentioned, these two funding pieces on both the immediate term bonding question that Simone and I are working on and then to also start using this time where we have money coming in these next 10 years to really start to think hard about what the long-term revenue options are for when that oil spill money runs out. I think that’s a lot to work on.
Jacques: Can’t imagine what your to-do list looks like.
Charles: Thank you so much for being on, Charles, today. Thank you for spending so much time with me on this issue. I am so grateful that you are my partner in crime on this. I’m very, very excited to work with you from Restore and Retreat sampling, but also personally. I think this is an important step for us to take. Again, we thank you for being on a couple of segments with us. Jacques and I always lament that there’s never enough time with our guests, so we are glad that we got some good quality time with you. Thanks for joining us.
Jacques: Yeah, really appreciate it, Charles, and of course you’re welcome back at any time and as this process moves forward with Restore or Retreat and CPRA. I would love to hear more about it. Hear about the parties that you’re engaging with and what you’re learning throughout the process.
Simone: We’ll keep you posted. Thank you Charles.
Jacques: Sounds good.
Simone: I’ll call you first thing in the morning like usual.
Jacques: You guys keep up the good work, too.
Simone: Thank you.
Jacques: Bye, bye.
Simone: What we got next?
Jacques: Next week we are talking all about sediment.
Jacques: I was going to say, “Sediment’s Saturday,” but I guess that’ll ruin Thursday so it won’t really work. We’re going to have on some really great guests. One is a repeat, Dr. Alex Kolker.
Simone: I wonder if the pups running for mayor, still.
Jacques: Dupree. I talked to him today. I don’t know. He said Dupree’s having a tough time with the heat. Like a lot of our guys are.
Jacques: His qualifications in order. Dr. Kolker, Alex and a team of Tulane researchers came out with a recent study looking at Cubit’s Gap which is in the birds-foot delta.
Simone: You’re going out there, right?
Jacques: Yeah. I’m going out next week with them and some folks in the media. We’re going to tour it. For those of you who may not know.
Simone: Where is that?
Jacques: It’s in the Birds Put Delta, very far south along the Mississippi River and Plaquemines Parish. It was actually a ditch that was dug by an oyster man and his daughters in the 1860’s because they wanted it easier.
Simone: I’m glad my dad didn’t do that to me and my sisters.
Jacques: Have easier access to the boat. As the Mississippi River does, it flooded and opened up a wide crevasse.
Simone: Was he Mr. Cubit?
Jacques: That hit it. His name was Cubit. The crevasse actually ended up building the National Delta Wildlife Refuge, so I think by 75 years it had built 100 square miles of land, or something like that. 150 years later, they’re still looking at the Cubit’s Gap and understanding what can we learn from it in terms of how the Mississippi River can build land, particularly with some of the sediment diversions that are coming up. We’re going to go out there, do a tour, check it out, and then Alex is going to come on the show and talk about it.
Simone: You have the exciting week, sounds like.
Jacques: As do you. I guess we’re trading off. We’re also going to have Jim Robbins who is an environmental journalist who recently did a story for Yelp 360 about why sediment and the world’s rivers is important in the fact that we’re losing sediment in our rivers and why that is a significant challenge. Not just here in Louisiana, but around the world. So, it will be good to get that perspective.
Simone: Big plans on Saturday.
Jacques: Big plans on Saturday. If you want to come on down to Harras and see me make a fool of myself, but also support.
Simone: I’ll bring Ben and Penny. They’ll love that.
Jacques: A really good cause. It’s Saturday at Harris. I think the doors open at noon.
Jacques: 610 Stompers Edition.
Jacques: We’ll hope we’ll be back next week.
Simone: Yeah, right.
Jacques: This was a great episode. Thank you, Simone. Thank you to Charles Sutcliffe. You are listening to Delta Dispatches on WGSO 990 AM. We’ll talk to you next week.
Simone: Next week.