LWF Concerned about Direction and Future of Coastal Program, CPRA

UPDATE: HB 806 that changes CPRA’s board passed the Senate on May 22, 2024 and is headed to the Governor’s desk for signing.

As the 2024 legislative session winds down, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, along with other organizations, are voicing concern over the future progress and stability of Louisiana’s coastal program. The administration has been pushing to reorganize the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s (CPRA) Board and move it into another state agency. Construction of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion (MBSD) project has been stopped since February causing delays and adding costs. Both signal major changes to the good progress the coastal program has made since CPRA was formed in 2005.  

Governor Landry’s recent Executive Order JML 24-13 calls for moving CPRA from an independent, stand-alone agency to one that would be under the purview of the Louisiana Department of Energy and Natural Resources (LDENR). 

LWF has been tracking the progress of this initiative since it was first announced on February 1. You can read LWF’s comments. Also, we’ve been tracking several bills associated with changes to CPRA and MBSD that have been introduced in the current legislative session.  

HB 810 by Rep. Brett Geymann reorganizes LDENR and has passed both the House and the Senate – unanimously with minor amendments — and will soon head to the Governor’s desk for his signature. This bill consolidates more responsibilities and oversight under LDENR. Among many changes, it creates an Office of Land and Water at LDENR, which appears to be where the activities of coastal restoration and flood protection would be managed in the future.  

HB 806 by Rep. Brett Geymann reduces the CPRA board by removing six state officials from the board including Secretary of the Dept. of Transportation and Development, Secretary of the Dept. of Economic Development, Commissioner of Administration, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Commissioner of Insurance, and the director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Two of these are elected officials and the other four are appointments made by the Governor. The bill is currently in the Senate awaiting final passage. It’s hard to understand why this change is needed, but perhaps it’s the only action that could be taken to start fundamentally altering how CPRA is managed. 

The Coastal Master Plan’s Annual Plan for 2025 was approved by the legislature and the budget is $1.7 billion, the largest budget year so far. It’s important to understand that a significant amount of coastal restoration funding comes from funds related to penalties and fines from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. These funds can only be spent on specific types of restoration project requests and this funding stream will expire in 2032. 

Our coastal program works. Since 2005, it has fortified levees and coastal ecosystems benefiting over 67,000 acres, improved 383 miles of levee and restored 71.6 miles of barrier islands. And the momentum is only improving. In the next year alone, if we hold the course, Louisiana is on track to create or nourish another 20 square miles of coastal wetlands and create tens of thousands more jobs. Furthermore, polling illustrates that Louisianians overwhelmingly support preserving and investing in the program, showing 92% of Louisiana voters support science-based restoration plans and 80% approve of sediment diversions, cornerstone strategies in that plan. 

Another cause for concern is the pause in construction of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion.  

The MBSD project began construction in August 2023 but has since been put on hold due to a lawsuit filed by Plaquemines Parish in November 2023. The suit claims that the project did not receive the necessary parish permit to begin construction. A stop work order was issued by the Parish in February and the state has stopped construction. According to some estimates the state could be on the hook for up to $1 billion in penalties if the project is forced into further delays or cancelled.  

 Recently, legislators in Senate Natural Resources and Transportation Committees asked for details. The current administration asserts that the contractor should have gotten the permit and that they inherited the project and it’s their problem. The previous administration asserts that the state has the right to issue its own permits. Currently there is a federal lawsuit regarding MBSD on hold, pending the outcome of the separate Plaquemines Parish lawsuit versus CPRA related to the obtainment of the local permit.   

 Louisiana is losing progress on this project daily. It’s an integral part of southeast coastal restoration planning in the Coastal Master Plan and has been in planning and design for 10 years. If this project Is cancelled, the outcome threatens Louisiana’s credibility with contractors making commitments to work on CPRA projects in the future. The longer this goes on, the longer penalties add up. Losing a $3 billion project means all that investment in restoration, job creation, and subsequent economic activity is lost for Louisiana.  


 In response to these urgent issues, LWF, along with hundreds of other organizations, businesses, and individuals, has signed an open letter addressed to the people of Louisiana and urging Governor Landry to reconsider his directive to reorganize and subjugate CPRA. This letter will be sent to the media along with appearing as a full-page ad in major coastal area newspapers. Read the letter here. 

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