Feds prioritize billions for Louisiana coastal projects

Work includes projects from Venice to Cameron

By: - January 19, 2022 2:24 pm
New Orleans hurricane levee

This 2006 photo shows levee work the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversaw following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A host of coastal restoration and flood protection projects in Louisiana will receive more than $2.7 billion from the federal government, according to a priority list shared at Wednesday’s meeting of the state’s Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority.

Yet not all of the projects are fully funded. Those with dollars from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will require 35% in matching money from the state or other sources. Those included in an emergency supplement in response to Hurricane Ida have their costs covered 100%.

CPRA chairman Chip Kline referred to the dollar amounts as “big time investment.” He told authority members that the Biden administration had finalized its spending priorities Wednesday morning for the two pieces of legislation.

The allotments include:

  • $783 million for the New Orleans to Venice hurricane protection project. Plans call for the construction of four new levee segments and repairs to existing sections.
  • $450 million for West Shore Lake Pontchartrain. The project will create hurricane protection for the area and the critical evacuation routes that run through it.
  • $378 million for Morganza to the Gulf, a project that stretches hurricane protection levees through Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.
  • $214 million to restore and enhance the Atchafalaya Basin. Work planned includes dredging, levee repairs and flood gate construction.
  • $128 million for the Comite River diversion to reduce flooding in the Baton Rouge area.
  • $125 million for Southwest Coastal, a hurricane risk reduction project for Calcasieu, Cameron and Vermilion parishes.

Projects in the emergency allocation bill that are completely funded include New Orleans to Venice, West Shore Lake Pontchartrain and a large portion of the Atchafalaya Basin work, Kline said.

He noted the state has only allocated modest amounts of money for most of the projects. For example, Morganza to the Gulf has received $12 million and $19 million the past two years. Only about $200,000 was available for Southwest Coastal.

The allocations also include $8 million for the Upper Barataria Basin for coastal flood risk mitigation. The work is concentrated in St. Charles and upper Lafourche parishes and is intended to reduce the impact of flooding from storm surges and rainfall.

There is also $3 million each for project studies in Tangipahoa Parish and Grand Isle. Kline said that Grand Isle only received study funding was “somewhat disappointing” because the CPRA has seen successful results from ideas already in use to protect the barrier island. They include segmented breakwaters, man-made sandbars or reefs built parallel to the island.

Kline also expressed regret that the town of Jean Lafitte in Jefferson Parish was totally excluded from the federal allocations. Mayor Tim Kerner has pleaded for resources to protect the inland community, which sits outside the federal levees built to reduce flood risk in the New Orleans area.

The CPRA has set aside $30 million for work in Lafitte in its budget proposal to the Louisiana Legislature, Kline said.

Neal McMillin, the federal point person for the Governor’s Office of Coastal Affairs, said Louisiana’s money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will be doled out over a five-year period.


Correction: An earlier version of this story included the incorrect allocation for the Upper Barataria Basin project. 



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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.