Delta Dispatches: The Louisiana Legislature & the Economic Case for Restoration
Thanks for listening to the latest episode of Delta Dispatchers with hosts Simone Maloz & Jacques Hebert. On this week’s episode of Delta Dispatches, Simone and Jacques discuss how the 2017 Coastal Master Plan becomes law and the economic case for recovery.
In the first two segments Simone has Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue (R – District 52) about his time as the chairman and executive director of the CPRA. Zee provides insights into the Louisiana legislature and the next steps for the master plan as it makes it way into becoming a law.
In the second half the show, Jacques speaks with Scott Kirkpatrick, the president of the Coast Builders Coalition – a trade association comprised of private sector companies in the business of restoring and protecting the Gulf Coast. Scott speaks to why restoring the coast is the right economic decision for businesses across the state.
Below is a transcript of this week’s Delta Dispatches Podcast. Listen to the full recording here or subscribe to our feed in iTunes and Google Play.
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Jacques: Hello, this is Jacques Hebert and you’re listening to Delta Dispatches. We’re discussing Louisiana’s coast, its people, wildlife and jobs, and why restoring it matters. Happy Thursday, Simone.
Simone: Hey, Jacques.
Jacques: How are things going?
Simone: Good. What did you do today?
Jacques: Well, I was in Baton Rouge, not for reasons that most people are in Baton Rouge today, which was the Master Plan was being heard by Senate Committee. Is that correct?
Simone: Yeah, it’s the first step in a really long process. We talked about this a little last week, and hope to talk about it more today. The Master Plan in its revised form has to go through the actual approval from the CPRA board, and then from the board it moves through the legislative process. It goes through two committees on each side, it has a House vote, floor vote, and then it actually has to get all the way through the process. Today was the first step, Senate Transportation, and it passed out favorably. Next week it will be in Senate Natural Resources, same day on Thursday. Next week is also a big week for us – it’s Coastal Day.
Jacques: Yeah, that’s right. It’s Coastal Day at the legislature, so we’re going to have a lot of advocates for the coast there. We’re hoping to educate people about the Master Plan and why it’s so important. We have one of those people on later today, who’s going to be our guest, Scott Kirkpatrick, who is head and president of Coast Builders Coalition. We’re going to be talking about the economic reasons for supporting the Master Plan and why so many businesses support the Master Plan.
Simone: Yeah, sure. We had Steve Cochran on initially, on our first show, talk about the economics and why it works. Scott is an example of representing some of those companies that want to do, and has done, coastal work here, and they have the expertise in coastal Louisiana to not just do it here, but hopefully export that knowledge other places.
Jacques: Right. It’s so much about protecting what we have in terms of our infrastructure, our communities, our businesses, but it’s also a huge opportunity to create jobs, to build a workforce that is going to be doing these coastal restoration protection projects over the long-term. For the state of Louisiana, this is both a huge opportunity from a defensive standpoint, and I guess offensive. Maybe I’m thinking about the draft.
Simone: We had Mandy on last week and we were talking about the Concert for the Coast, so why don’t you talk about that a little bit, and I’ll dog down our first guest.
Jacques: Sure. Yeah, so this last Saturday at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Museum we had a concert for the coast. It was a great evening. We had wonderful talent including Voices of a Nation, Lost Bayou Ramblers, and the super group Dragon Smoke. We were there celebrating the coast, but also getting people fired up for the Master Plan and moving forward. We had speakers from CPRA and New Orleans, and so overall it was a great night, and we are very much engaged in moving forward on this Master Plan process.
We were talking about businesses supporting the Master Plan, and our organizations are actually running ads across coastal newspapers starting on Tuesday showcasing how many businesses and different organizations are supportive of the Master Plan. Over 109 businesses are going to be included in those ads that are running in The Advocate, Times-Picayune and across coastal newspapers. It was a great show of support, check out your local paper for that, and see all of the people that are really supportive of this effort. As we said, over 88% of voters statewide support the Master Plan.
Simone: Jacques, you also attended a taping this week, you want to talk about that a little bit?
Jacques: Yeah, it’s no rest for the weary, as you know, Simone.
Simone: You are a busy guy.
Jacques: I know. You’re busy too. Louisiana Public Broadcasting, their Public Square program, did a whole special on the Coastal Master Plan, and they had a panel of experts including Denise Reed with the Water Institute, who we had on prior, and Bren Haase, who was one of our guests, as well as Mark Schleifstein with the Times-Picayune, and then some of us in the audience. We were talking about the Master Plan and talking about sediment diversions, and I was able to ask a question, which was basically what happens to all those projects such as marsh creation, the 18 billion dollars’ worth of marsh creation, the levee investments, and that sort of thing without sediment diversions. I think Bren gave a really strong answer. Folks who are looking to watch it, you can go online on LPB’s website. I think they’re also re-airing it on local LPB, WLAE stations, this Sunday.
Simone: Yeah, it seemed to be a very good program. I DVRed it, like any good American does these days, so I’m looking forward to catching it. One guy that knows a little bit about the state’s coastal program is Representative Jerome Zeringue. Zee, are you on the line?
Zee: I sure am, Simone. How y’all doing today?
Simone: Hey, Zee. We know you are a busy guy, and you have been in Baton Rouge non-stop lately. We are very grateful for you to join us today. Jerome Zeringue is a representative from south central Louisiana. He can tell you a little bit about his district in a little bit, but I’ve known Zee for a long time. He was on my executive committee when he was the executive director of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District. Between then and now, he was also executive director of the CPRA and chairman of the CPRA, so, Zee, you have a long history in coastal. Before we jump into the current coastal happenings, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Zee: Well, great, Simone. Thank you all for letting me be on the podcast today. So, yeah, I do have somewhat of a storied, long background.
Simone: We just need the clean stuff. Just the clean version of your history, Zee, please.
Zee: That’s the boring stuff, but essentially after grad school, I worked for LSU Sea grant, was a Sea Grant extension agent.
Simone: Or as Wendell would call you, a secret agent, right?
Zee: A secret, yes, secret agent man. And then I worked for the Nature Conservancy for a few years. Then I worked for the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District for 10, and while there, that’s when Garret was heading up CPRA and asked if I’d go up there and work with him. Did that, and eventually was the deputy director, then director of CPRA. When he left to run for, successfully ran for, Congress, I took his spot as the chairman. So I have for the past few years been somewhat engaged in this effort, but where you were from? And you mentioned it. We’re from south central Louisiana.
I represent Terrebonne and Lafourche parish, which unfortunately is experiencing the greatest in terms of land loss rate, and some of the most vulnerable, but unfortunately probably some of the most problematic to fix. Thankfully we’re going to have opportunities like diversions and other things that are adjacent to the river, and Atchafalaya, which opportunities within that basin, and just looking at all the benefits of Wax Lake outlet and how much potential the river has. Where we’re situated in Terrebonne, Lafourche it’s going to be problematic and difficult to fix. No less important, and we’re going to work to do it across the coast.
Simone: Zee, with your background, with your educational background and then with your work experience frankly, even before you came to the CPRA, I think you’ve always been a great spokesperson for why restoration and protection need to work together. You were at the Levee District during some pretty rough times, during Hurricane Katrina, but Rita, that we talked about on a previous program, was one that really impacted us in our part of the world. Maybe talk a little bit about your view about how protection and restoration need to work together and it can’t be one without the other.
Zee: Right. And it was Rita, and also Ike.
Zee: It’s just emblematic of the of the problem in so much as here we had Katrina. Obviously it was devastating. It wasn’t a direct hit in our area, and because of the trajectory of the storm, we had an impact, but two weeks later here’s a storm that hit on the border of Louisiana and Texas, and we had the worst flooding to date in Terrebonne parish, which indicates that the buffer that we traditionally relied upon, and the fact that now storm surge, and even tidal surge, are affecting and impacting the coast much quicker and to a greater degree, deeper into the system. That was the one that really demonstrated that, listen, we have some problems and obviously restoration’s important.
That was part of the whole aspect about Morganza to the Gulf. We call it a leaky system, but it’s because of the location and the vulnerability, but also the sensitivity of the resource and the places and people we’re trying to protect. You have these five ridges, and trying to connect these five ridges are difficult, but it’s also essential to ensure that you’re providing protection, but also accommodating and allowing as best you can within the system the sensitivity to the resource and the natural habitat.
And so we have environmental structures, we have the lock complex that’s going to allow for the opportunity to utilize the Atchafalaya. In that central region, that’s our best opportunity to allow for fresh water to get into the system. That lock will allow us to do that, which is an environmental structure, which, oh, by the way, provides significant hurricane benefit. It’s just an example of how we can integrate and incorporate both flood protection and restoration features within a system.
Simone: Yeah, we had an avid listener, Chip Kline, on the show a few weeks back, and he was talking about the Complex, the Houma Navigation Canal Complex, down in our part of the world, and it is a perfect example of restoration and protection working together. That the protection is when you need it, storm surge protection, but then the lock is really what keeps the fresh water to the north and the salt water to the south. Well, Zee, we have to take a little break, please stay on with us. We want to talk about a session, we want to talk about what you’re up to in Baton Rouge. I know you have a couple coastal bills in the hopper. So stick with us just for a little bit, and we’ll get back with you after the break.
Simone: Welcome back. This is Simone Maloz from Restore or Retreat, you’re listening to Delta Dispatches. We’re discussing Louisiana’s coast, its people, wildlife and jobs, and why restoring it matters. We have one of the best coastal representatives right now on the line, Jerome “Zee” Zeringue. Zee, everybody calls you Zee, right? I mean that was your state address for a long time, right?
Zee: That’s right.
Simone: It’s okay to call you Zee, right? You don’t need me to call you honorable or representative or anything like that, although you are both of those things.
Zee: Well, no, I think some would consider dishonorable, but be that as it may. No, call me Zee, I’ve been called much worse.
Simone: All right, Zee. I’m the fun one on the program, not that Jacques isn’t, but I like to ask questions of our guests so that we get to know them a little bit better. Your icebreaker question will be, Zee, if you had a yacht, or a big boat, what would the name of that boat be?
Zee: Oh. Name of the boat, the yacht.
Simone: Like, you know, I don’t know, people call their boats goofy things.
Zee: Yeah, they do.
Simone: So I will tell you mine. There was a Tim McGraw song and he talks about sweet amnesia because he wants to forget about something, so if I had a big boat and I could just sail away and forget about everything, I might call it “Sweet Amnesia”.
Zee: Believe me, I wouldn’t worry about the name, I’d much prefer being on one.
Simone: I was talking about avid listener Chip Kline earlier, but I asked him his favorite karaoke song, and he revealed to us that he likes to sing Kenny Rogers. So you learn a lot about people when you ask them those questions. I do want to switch over to a more serious note. You have a couple of bills in the legislature right now, some that are very important to the coastal program. I want to talk about some of those right now. One in particular, you are carrying the annual plan for the CPRA on the House side, and tell us a little bit about the annual plan and what your resolution does.
Zee: The annual plan is what the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority puts together in terms of the projects that’ll be pursued within this annual budget. It’s reflective of the project that the Authority hopes to accomplish, which we hope that they will. The way to do that is with the funding. It’s going to be roughly a 600 million dollar plus budget to ensure the projects, that getting them shovel-ready and implementing them, both the planning, the monitoring, and all the other aspects, the important components of the plan that CPRA carry out for this next fiscal year are incorporated in the annual plan.
Simone: Good. So it’s important to the day-to-day happenings of the CPRA, correct?
Zee: What’s they’re going to use and what’s going to be appropriated to the agency for the purposes of carrying out the program for this fiscal year.
Simone: Yeah, my partner in crime Jacques Hebert likes to talk about the annual plan. It’s not the sexiest of documents, but it is really what gets the work done. It has a three year outlook on those projects, and it’s really the implementation of the Master Plan, the money that goes to that. It also does a really good job of recapping the past year’s coastal program and its successes, and it looks forward to some of the major projects that are coming online. That’s HR1 if you want to follow that. If you’ve never been to the legislative website, it’s great. It’s legis.la.gov, and you can search for bills by author, like you go all the way down to the bottom of the list and find Jerome Zeringue. You can look by numbers, you can search by key words. What are some of the other bills that you have in the hopper? I mean that’s really where that term came from, right? Do y’all have a hopper? How does that work over there?
Zee: Well, it’s an electronic hopper. It used be a hopper where they pile them all up.
Zee: A couple of the bills that we’re working on, in addition to the Master Plan also. That’s going to be a critical one. That one’s going to originate in the Senate and come over to the House, and that’s obviously for the next five years the plan on both identifying the successes, and also how the agency is going to move forward to expand on and build the projects over the life of the plan. You talk about a 50 year plan, but it’s tiered, and it’s implementing those tiers to get to the point where we’re actually building more land – that’s still hopefully the goal, that we’re building more land than what we’re losing. So the Master Plan is another critical piece of legislation that’s coming through.
A couple of bills that I’m working on deal with some for the levee districts and trying to help some of the financial challenges that the Flood Protection Authorities, both East and West and also the newly created authorities, have in trying to get sufficient funding to operate and maintain the systems. I’m doing it one of two ways. One is going to be a constitutional amendment, and then the other is specific just to the Flood Protection Authorities East and West, and it’s primarily to ensure the funding to operate and maintain the systems.
I have a servitude that’s going to, hopefully it’s going to, provide opportunities to expedite some of the coastal restoration projects. Right now the Corps of Engineers refers to the fact that if there is no prevailing state authority or statute, that they refer back to federal policy. Federal policy requires, in some of these projects, it requires fee titles or perpetual servitudes. As you know, 85%, or definitely over 80%, of the coast, is in private hands, and this would allow us to work both with the landowners to advance these projects, similar to what happens with CWPPRA that a servitude will last only as long as the life of the project, typically 20 to 30 years, or if and unless 75% of the people within the project area agree to provide that perpetual or fee title sale. It’s going to provide the landowners the opportunity to at least participate and advance projects, also allow them to retain mineral rights, but also we can get the benefit of restoring and protecting the resource.
There was some concern about the issue about public money on private land, but again, considering the fact that over 80% of the coast is in private lands, private hands, if we did not engage in restoring the area within private property, we wouldn’t be able to implement the Master Plan. This will allow CPRA, levee districts and others who are doing public state projects to acquire servitudes that are the life of the project, but also continue to advance these projects, which will make it easier and cheaper. Because the state had to essentially either abandon projects, or the cost is increased substantially, if they can get it at all, because of the fact that if you try to get the title.
Simone: So, Zee, back to your bill, the other bill that has the constitutional amendment. When that gets passed out, then it goes to the voters, that’s what you’re saying, right? It gets passed out, it gets signed, and then it goes to the vote of the people, correct?
Zee: Right, exactly. What that does is it just makes the most recent levee authorities, Chenier Plain Levee District, New Iberia, the St. Tammany Levee District, St. Mary, consistent with the other levee districts. After 2006, they consolidated the levee districts in and around New Orleans, most of them, but it was primarily consolidated in name only. There are some functional issues that the other bill would address, but this one gives all the authorities the ability to levee up to five mills for the purposed of operating and maintaining systems. Now, they’re saying it’s without a vote of the people. Well, actually, there will be a vote because it’s a constitutional amendment, so the public will have an opportunity to weigh in.
Simone: Well, Zee, we have run out of time. We would love, love to have you back before the end of session or as soon as the session’s over for a legislative recap. Thank you, Zee, for being on. We appreciate your service in Baton Rouge, and we look forward to having you on soon.
Zee: Thank you. Love to be back, anytime. Y’all have a great day.
Simone: Thanks, Zee.
Jacques: Hello, this is Jacques Hebert, and you’re listening to Delta Dispatches. We’re discussing Louisiana’s coast, its people, wildlife and jobs, and why restoring it matters. We’re continuing our conversation about the 2017 Coastal Master Plan and the legislative session and the economic importance of restoration. We’re joined now by Scott Kirkpatrick. Scott serves as the president of Coast Builders Coalition located in Baton Rouge. He is a partner of the Roedel Parsons law firm where he represents a variety of clients on government relations matters. He also previously worked in Washington, DC for former Senator John Breaux and former Congressman Richard Baker, and he served as the natural resources, transportation and environmental policy advisor to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Welcome to the show, Scott. How are you?
Scott: Great, I’m doing just fine. Thanks for having me.
Jacques: Great. And thank you for being here. I understand it’s your wife’s birthday, so hopefully we’re not getting you in too much trouble by having you on.
Scott: No, no. Hopefully I think she’s having a good birthday so far.
Jacques: Oh, good. Well, I promise to not take too much of your time so you can go celebrate. So, Scott, tell us a little bit about Coast Builders Coalition. When what it started, and what is the mission of the group?
Scott: It was started after Katrina where you really saw a major new investment in both, initially, in emergency response to Katrina, and then to the protection system that went around the New Orleans area system, and then now the restoration effort that partly is in response to the Deepwater Horizon spill. As that industry grew, as more consultants and contractors and engineers were involved in this, we put a group together to kind of speak for that industry, and to make sure Louisiana was a great place for them to do business and then they could turn out a great product for our coast.
Jacques: Right. And, you know, we’ve talked a little bit about the economic reasons for restoring the coast, and we’re going to talk about that some more with you now. I know you’re hard at work planning a big day on Tuesday at the state capitol for Coastal Day, so can you tell us a little bit about Coastal Day and what’s going to go on next Tuesday?
Scott: Absolutely. This is something started seven, eight years ago, a chance for coastal advocates to get over to the capitol and express our support to legislators from across the state. It’s an incredibly important time because often those elected officials closest to the coast hear the most about this issue, which certainly it’s important they do that. As we know, this is a statewide, and even a national, issue, so it’s important to educate legislators throughout the state about what’s happening on the coast, the challenges it’s facing, and the opportunities they have to contribute, and the opportunities their constituents have to contribute to protecting and restoring the coast.
Jacques: Absolutely. We mentioned it earlier in the program that over 100 businesses and civic organizations and chambers of commerce recently signed on to a series of ads in support of the Master Plan, including Coast Builders Coalition and, of course, our organization, Restore The Mississippi River Delta. Why, Scott, even some of these businesses aren’t located necessarily right on the coast, but they may be located in Lafayette or New Orleans or even Baton Rouge, so why are so many businesses in support of this Master Plan?
Scott: Well, I think, certainly there’s just the overall civic duty, if you will, to conserve and protect our environment and the people here. I also think you see some more direct business interest, and that’s, one, to those businesses who directly work in this area and the thousands of jobs there are in managing the water in and around our cities and our coast, and then you also have the related issue where businesses need the protection and restoration just to operate. You may not actually have employees directly involved in restoring and protecting the coast, but the implications of an area flooding is going to have business implications on you as well. I think there are a number of layers, a number of reasons, why businesses are interested in getting involved with this issue.
Jacques: Yes, we’ve talked in the past about some of the progress that’s been made since certainly the 2007 Master Plan, 2012 Master Plan, a lot of barrier island restoration as well as marsh creation, and then of course structural protection such as levees and flood walls and that sort of thing. Are we seeing benefits from that work on the ground here, and what are some of those direct benefits that we’ve seen already?
Scott: Well, I certainly think, certainly since Katrina, you’ve seen the protection levels, particularly around New Orleans, but also in other areas, rise, and that’s both because of hard structures that have been improved, but also some of the restoration work that’s been done to knock down those storms. That’s probably the biggest thing we’ve seen. I do think that the plans, these Master Plans, are getting more sophisticated, people are internalizing them more, they’re understanding more the business environment, not only currently, but in the future. Getting people to think, and businesses to think, 10, 20, 30 years into the future, predicting what’s going to happen, that’s really important. It’s important not only for business planning, but it’s important for people to feel like there’s a plan that thinks that far ahead and helps the state and them make strategic investments in where they want to be, where they need to be, and what they want to protect.
Jacques: Absolutely. And, you know, as Simone mentioned, there was an LPB program this past Tuesday that aired last night, and Dr. Denise Reed with the Water Institute of the Gulf made several times the point that Louisiana’s really at the cutting edge in terms of dealing with this crisis, these challenges, finding innovative solutions to address water management, to address coastal flooding. Would you say, I guess in terms of maybe grading the business community, or grading the work that’s being done, are we ahead of the curve on this issue?
Scott: Everything I have seen suggests we are. One example is after some of the legislation was passed after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which are related to the Restore Act, the Gulf Coast states were asked to make sure they had a master plan for the coast to govern the dollars that would go to the coast. Well, Louisiana was far and away ahead of those other Gulf Coast states because we’ve put so much time into it. Secondly, we’re seeing the companies and then the people doing the work here in Louisiana, doing the studies and et cetera, they are being looking at as international experts on this.
So you want to come to Louisiana, you want to learn and do a great job so you can take that work and export it. That’s an exciting opportunity for Louisiana. It’s the reason that you see universities in the state seeking to have centers of excellence and to cultivate public-private partnerships that they can bring to other areas of the state. The Water Campus and Water Institute that’s formed is a center of excellence that’s seeking to export this knowledge globally. So we’re very hopeful and excited about those opportunities.
Jacques: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been at conferences here in New Orleans and elsewhere where our scientists, scientists in Louisiana and engineers in Louisiana, are up front and center on the stage, and you have people attending from Europe and Asia and they’re looking to us really and the work that we’ve done as a model, and one that they can perhaps implement in their own areas. So, Scott, I want to ask you before we go to break, if you were talking to a business owner who is in the coastal zone, they might not know a whole lot about coastal restoration and protection or our land loss crisis, but they care about their bottom line, they care about protecting their investments and building their investments over the long-term, what advice would you give them, or what’s your elevator pitch for why they should care about coastal restoration?
Scott: Well, we’ve continuously seen in studies that there’s a high business cost anytime we are not resilient, and most business owners in the coastal zone can think about either the Katrina situation or the flooding in Baton Rouge or the Rita situation. They actually have experiences that show them what resilience looks like, and so a big part of the coastal restoration protection is helping them be more resilient in the future. I think when you take them back to those times and the impacts they had, or at least the concerns they had when those events were going on, it makes this very real, and they want to make sure they don’t have those fears and anxieties into the future.
Jacques: All right. And we are going to talk a little bit more in the next segment about a report that our organization’s worked on that looks at restoration costs over time, particularly for marsh creation, and some of the findings that show that it’s important to get work done now. We’ve talked about funding for restoration, and how we have a steady pipeline of funding, some funding, not all, coming over the next 15 years in particular, so I’m looking forward to talking a little bit more about that. Simone says she’s the fun one, so I’m going to try to take a stab at it. Scott, what is your favorite po’ boy?
Scott: I’m a shrimp po’ boy guy, gotta be honest with you now. If you throw in a little oyster and shrimp, if I caught them on a crazy day, that’s pretty good too, but I prefer the shrimp po’ boy.
Simone: They call those peacemakers, right? When you have-
Jacques: Shrimp and oyster.
Simone: Yeah, that sounds right, that you’re a peacemaker.
Jacques: You know, a life-changing experience is when I went to Parkway Tavern in New Orleans and had the surf-n-turf, which is a shrimp po’ boy with a little bit of roast beef gravy and I guess roast beef debris on it. It’s life-changing.
Simone: You would not want to watch me eat that. That sounds good.
Jacques: Yeah, not good for company, or eating if you care about messes, but, no, absolutely delicious. All right, Scott, well, like I said we’re going to talk to you a little bit more after the break about the changing restoration costs. For those listening, this is Delta Dispatches, and we’ll be right back.
Jacques: This is Jacques Hebert and you’re listening to Delta Dispatches. We’re back with Scott Kirkpatrick, president of the Coast Builders Coalition. Scott, we were talking a little bit about the economic importance of coastal restoration prior to the break, and I know our organization last year, I think November, released a report called “Changing Restoration Costs” that looked at the costs of restoration over time, particularly for marsh creation, which is the largest restoration category in the Master Plan at 18 billion dollars. Can you tell us a little bit, you know, what were some of the main findings of that analysis?
Scott: Yeah, this was an exciting report, not because it was so unusual in its findings, it told us what I think a lot of us already knew or believed, and that is that, look, the coast is deteriorating, the quicker you can come and stabilize it, the cheaper it is, and the longer you get to enjoy the impacts of that stabilization. But the Water Institute, and with some of their world-renown science and analysis, was able to really bring that home and put some figures on that, show you, hey, if you wait 20 years let’s say for there’s a particular marsh creation project, those costs double. If you can do those, find a way to do that 10 years earlier, it was showing us the benefits of doing that. So really some great information that can be used by government officials and others as they look at managing the different funding streams we have for the coast.
Jacques: Absolutely. The report looked at five different spots across the coast that had different variables going into them. Of course, subsidence varies depending on where you are on the coast, but in general it found that the longer you wait, the more areas turn to open water, the deeper they get, the more expensive it is to fill, as you need to fill to higher levels. The main point is to get restoration done sooner wherever possible, right?
Scott: I think so. I think so, and in some instances maybe you’d tell somebody that and they’d say, “Well, okay, I hear you, but I just don’t have the money,” but we are in a unique situation where we do have some of these long-term funding streams from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act and from the Natural Resource Damages Assessment funds, 15, 20 plus year funding streams. That makes this analysis even more appropriate we think because we needed … I think it forces us to look at can we, should we, bond these revenues and get a better return on our investment in the coast.
Jacques: Yeah, let’s talk a little bit about that. I know another part of the analysis was that there’s a huge cost savings, opportunity, by bonding some of these projects. We know that funding is coming down through the BP settlement and other sources, so what would that look like in terms of actually bonding for some of these restoration projects?
Scott: I think it’s … In general, you’d be looking to maybe take a 10, 15, 20 year funding stream, bonded through either at a Wall Street level, or even at a smaller, private banking level, and get the project done really today or in the next few years. This report that we did will be able to show you, hey, the cost of doing it now and the cost of doing it later, and show you that just by doing that, even though you pay some costs for financing the project, the overall cost would be less than having to wait and do that project let’s say 20 years from now, which is maybe when you’d have the money under the traditional pay-as-you-go structure.
Jacques: Right. And so we’ve talked about this in the past. We’ve done polling recently that shows overwhelming, 93 plus percentage of people, say protect the money that you have now for restoration, put it to the projects where it needs to go, and try to find additional funding over the long-term. I guess some people might see this and say, “Well, there’s a lot of money going to the coast,” but when you look at the plans, when you look at the projects and the severity of the crisis, that’s not necessarily the case, right?
Scott: That’s true. That’s true. Again, it’s a blessing that we do have some long-term funding streams, but at the same time, to your point, they’re not sufficient to take care of our problems. In fact, the length of time that they go out is really too long for our immediate needs. We have an emergency on the coast, and so we need to immediately take care of it. It can be challenging at times when people say, “Hey, you’re going to have money for a good while,” and you’ve got to make them understand, say, “We do, but we don’t have enough, we don’t have nearly enough, for these plans that are encompassed by the state’s Master Plan.”
Jacques: So main takeaway there is protect the funding you have, get restoration done as quickly as you can, and then also look for opportunities for cost savings such as bonding. For folks that want to learn more or read that analysis, you can go on our website, mississippiriverdelta.org/changingrestorationcosts. Scott, I have a few minutes left, I just want to ask you, if you’re a business owner or other person looking to get involved in the fight to restore and protect the coast, what advice would you give them?
Scott: Well, I tell you, I think there’s some tremendous organizations involved, including y’all’s, in this effort. I think being a part of that community, that advocacy community is very important. Our group is certainly … To be part of Coast Builders, you’re somebody who’s actually doing the work, and so that’s a great … You can learn more about our group at coastbuilderscoalition.org. But I think a number of great non-profits are out there who are advocates, and then supporting y’all in those efforts. And then also, we’re talking about being down at the legislature and our policymakers down there, it’s important to reach out to them. Let them know that you care about this issue, that it impacts you and your business. You can’t tell them enough that they need to hear it consistently, so I would encourage them to reach out to their elected officials.
Jacques: Absolutely, Scott. Thank you for so much for those words. I mean you and your organization have been wonderful partners for us, and we really appreciate all the support that you’ve given to us. As a reminder, we have an action alert on the 2017 Master Plan on our website. People can go on mississippiriverdelta.org/takeaction, and you can contact your legislators directly and ask them to support the Coastal Master Plan. Scott, I don’t want to take too much of your time and I want to save your voice because I know you have to sing Happy Birthday later, but thank you again so much for being on.
Simone: Yeah, Scott, this is Simone. I’ve been lurking in the background. Thank you very much for being on today. We look forward to being part of Coastal Day with you. We are grateful for your leadership; every year you try to herd cats on that issue, and it is really important. It’s a day that we can all come together and talk about some of that important work that’s being done along the coast. From me to you, and on behalf of Jacques, we’re grateful that you came on with us today.
Scott: Yeah, well thank you all so much. Look forward to seeing y’all on Monday and Tuesday.
Jacques: Thank you, Scott, see you Tuesday, yup.
Scott: Bye bye.
Simone: So, Giacomo, what you got up this week?
Jacques: Well, you and I are headed on a field trip tomorrow, is that correct?
Simone: Yes, it’s Fourchon Friday, #fourchonfriday. We are going down with some of our very good friends and supporters Joni Tuck and Chett Chiasson with the Greater Lafourche Port Commission. We have some media coming in. This is something that you and I do pretty often.
Jacques: Yeah, media, we have a journalist coming in from California who wants to learn more about Louisiana’s land loss crisis and some of the restoration solutions. There’s really no better example than what’s going on with Port Fourchon and the Caminada Headland. It’s the largest restoration project completed to date, and obviously it supports and protects a hugely important part of infrastructure and commerce that is Port Fourchon.
Simone: Yup, birds, beach, and I wish I knew another ‘b’ for the Port. But, yeah, it is an amazing example. We do many, many trips like this because it is an amazing example of where the environment meets industry there. So, what else on deck?
Jacques: Well, I mean that’s a great point too. It’s also critical bird habitat so we’re going to have Dr. Erik Johnson, who was on the show. He is Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Louisiana. Apparently there’s a mega-colony of least terns that are now nesting on Caminada Headland at Elmer’s Island, so we’re going to see them, see the work that Audubon’s doing to protect those birds. Then, yeah, you can always listen and get previous episodes at mississippiriverdelta.org/deltadispatches.
Simone: Great, great. And we will have some more great guests next week. Thank you all for listening Delta Dispatches.