Louisiana Coastal Master Plan
Following the devastating hurricanes of 2005, the Louisiana Legislature enacted several significant changes which altered the trajectory for Louisiana’s coast. Prior to 2005, coastal restoration and conservation fell under the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, and hurricane protection/levees were a responsibility of the Louisiana Department of Transportation.
The legislature decided that protection and restoration could no longer happen in isolation, and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) was formed. Under this new state authority, the Louisiana Legislature also required that the CPRA develop a comprehensive plan for the protection and restoration of Louisiana’s coast to be created, so in 2007 the first Coastal Master Plan was released.
The 2007 plan was largely conceptual, utilizing previous studies such as the Louisiana Coastal Area Study, Coast 2020, and others. Since the plan must be updated regularly, the 2012 version delivered greater detail, thanks to a longer planning period and advances in technology and science. The 2012 plan was a balance of 50% restoration projects and 50% protection projects. It proposed spending about $1 billion a year in 2012 funds for the next 50 years. The legislature deliberately chose fifty years and $50 billion as an aspirational but attainable goal, but the plan was formulated so that whatever funding was available, the most impactful projects within the budget would be prioritized.
The 2017 plan was built upon the 2012 plan, retained the 50/50 split between protection and restoration and kept the 50 year and $50 billion strategy. Two of the most considerable improvements for the 2017 plan were a more refined timeline for project implementation over the next 50 years and an updated projection of climate change scenarios used to model, select, and prioritize the suite of projects. Climate projections in 2017 were updated from 2012 based upon the latest climate science. As a result, projects in 2017 had their performance measured against a much higher rate of future sea- level rise predictions. The 2023 plan will also use the latest range of sea-level rise scenarios from the international scientific literature, which will likely be different, but not necessarily worse than in 2017. Additionally, the 2023 plan will use model improvements to better analyze a more robust range of project performances measured against the uncertainties inherent in all attempts to predict the future.
The 2017 plan included 120 initially selected projects suggested by the public, agencies and local governments, with four additional projects added after public input during the comment period. The master plan projects included were chosen based on their ability to meet the two primary goals of the plan: 1. build and maintain land and 2. reduce future hurricane flood risk to communities. Additionally, projects were evaluated for five primary objectives within those goals: flood protection, natural processes, coastal habitat, cultural heritage and the working coast.
The development of the 2017 plan also saw greater community engagement thanks in part to the “Coastal Conversations” local meeting series, the interactive Master Plan Viewer tool and the partnership with the State Library that ensured copies of the plan in every Louisiana public library.
After 2017, legislation passed to allow 6 years between plans, so development for the 2023 plan began immediately after the unanimous support of the 2017 plan in the Louisiana Legislature. It is expected the 2023 plan will see advances in model accuracy and include more in-depth analysis of ecosystem response to proposed projects. The plan is expected to be viewed in draft form by the end of 2022, with public comment and a vote by the Louisiana Legislature in the Spring of 2023.
Geography: The official Louisiana Coastal Zone defines the scope of where the CPRA’s projects and authority reside. This includes 20 coastal parishes from the Texas to Mississippi borders. Detailed “parish fact sheets” for each are available online.
State Entities Involved: The Governor, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the CPRA Board, the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, GOCA Board, House and Senate Natural Resources and Transportation Committees, Full Legislature
Funding: There are 40+ different but generally small, restricted or shrinking sources of funding on the local, state, and federal levels. The exception is funding flowing from the legal settlement of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster. Seven to eight billion dollars from Deepwater Horizon will be sufficient funding for the restoration part of the plan through about 2023. Still, full funding for the storm risk reduction projects in the plan will depend upon as yet unidentified sources of revenue, which might include future Congressional appropriations. Securing a steady source of long-term revenue for risk reduction and restoration after 2032 will be critical to the plan’s success. Further, given the accelerating rate of sea-level rise ahead, money spent sooner will be more effective than money spent later. One billion dollars a year is not a limit on what could be spent effectively.