Louisiana’s Edwards Unveils Coastal Priorities, Names Resilience Officer

February 24, 2020 by Dan McCue

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards this week announced his priorities for the state’s coastal program for the next four years, and in a related move, named G. Charles Sutcliffe as the state’s first chief resilience officer.

Edwards also announced the state will receive its maximum payment from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act for the first time.

The Act created a revenue-sharing model for oil- and gas-producing gulf states. Under it, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas receive a portion of the revenue generated from oil and gas production offshore in the Gulf.

In addition, he committed at least $115 million in state surplus dollars to the coastal fund which will bring the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s planned expenditures for FY21 over $1 billion for the first time in state history.

“Over the next four years, CPRA will be investing nearly $1 billion per year in the implementation of some of the most important projects in the Coastal Master Plan,” the governor said.

“But in order for us to make the most of the opportunities presented by our changing coast and be as successful as possible, we will be redoubling our efforts to collaborate across state government agencies and across the economy,” he continued. “Only through a unified approach resulting from productive partnerships are we going to achieve a Louisiana that is resilient and sustainable economically and environmentally.”

Gov. Edwards’ second-term coastal priorities include:

·       Building resilience and establishing a Climate Initiatives Task Force;

·       Pursuing a more integrated approach to the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers;

·       Pursuing initiatives that will ensure a sustainable oyster industry;

·       Growing, diversifying, and protecting the economy through investments in coastal protection and restoration and coordinated advocacy;

·       Establishing the Coastal Innovation and Collaboration Hub to focus expertise and share knowledge.

“Each of these policy initiatives is designed to address a significant problem facing coastal Louisiana in new ways through strategic partnerships and enhanced information sharing,” said CPRA Chairman Chip Kline. “The problems we face are complex. Through coordinated, integrated action, we can turn these challenges into opportunities to better restore and protect our coast.”

Edwards has signed two executive orders to support a broadened state approach to addressing the coastal crisis.

The first established a chief resilience officer tasked with integrating Coastal Master Plan data into the decision-making of other state agencies.

The second will establish a Climate Initiatives Task Force that will be charged with reviewing existing emissions data to quantify the amount of achievable emissions reduction by industry and through investments in the conservation and restoration of the coast.

Through several new policy initiatives, Louisiana will also work to more holistically manage the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers to integrate the goals of flood protection, ecosystem restoration, navigation, water quality, and fisheries habitat.

Partnerships between state agencies will provide opportunities for Louisiana businesses, workers, and formerly incarcerated job-seekers to better connect to the contracting and employment opportunities associated with the implementation of Coastal Master Plan projects.

The Flood Insurance sub-committee of the CPRA Board will work to advocate for a long-term federal reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, to raise Louisiana as a key player in the national conversation, and to form valuable partnerships with other at-risk states. 

Lastly, Edwards is calling for the establishment of Louisiana’s Coastal Innovation and Collaboration Hub, at the Water Institute of the Gulf, to focus on innovation and share expertise among government, universities, nonprofits, communities, and private firms through a single focal point for collaboration.

This hub will be the home of a model repository that will provide access to researchers and technical experts to the models and databases.

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