Governor Edwards Proclaims State of Emergency for Louisiana Coast

This story was reported for WWNO -- New Orleans Public Radio


A packed crowd was on hand for the April 19 CPRA Board meeting, where the 2017 Master Plan was approved and sent to the State Legislature, and where the emergency declaration was announced. (Chuck Perrodin/CPRA)

Governor John Bel Edwards has declared Louisiana’s ongoing coastal land loss a state of emergency. It’s part of the state’s strategy to speed up coastal restoration projects.

Environmental permits can slow down big restoration projects. The Army Corps of Engineers, for example, says it could take up to five years to get federal permits to open up the Mississippi River and use diversions to create new land.

So state officials are looking for ways to fast-track these projects.  

At Wednesday’s monthly Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board meeting, CPRA Board Chairman Johnny Bradberry, said a ‘state of emergency’ allows the feds to issue permits during construction -- effectively fast-tracking them.

“That allows some flexibility in how projects get put on the ground,” he says.

Bradberry says that’s how the levees were rebuilt quickly after Hurricane Katrina, and hopes future restoration projects can be implemented with similar speed.

State officials, including Governor Edwards, now want the support of both President Donald Trump and Congress. That process that could take months, and Bradberry says the governor has written letters to both.

The CPRA board approved the 2017 Coastal Master Plan at Wednesday’s meeting and sent it to the state legislature for approval. They also approved the 2018 Annual Plan -- the plan that outlines the state’s spending priorities for restoration and protection projects for the next fiscal year.