Coastal restoration authority meets to discuss priorities

Published 9:57 am Thursday, April 27, 2023

By Emily Burleigh

American Press

The Chenier Plain Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority met for their quarterly meeting last week on Tuesday, April 18, to discuss their priorities for the 2023 Legislative Session.

The authority’s priorities in the legislative session are to secure funding for shoreline protection and stabilization.

“The shoreline is our first line of defense to protect Cameron Parish from hurricane and storm damage,” said Kay Barnett, board president. “Without this protection, the efforts that are made to restore our marshes and inland flood structures will not sustain the forces of storms as well if our coastline keeps eroding.”

There are currently a total of 16 projects slated for the Chenier region in CPRA’s 2023 Master Plan – which covers the Texas border to Freshwater Bayou.

These projects focus on ridge restoration, marsh creation and hydrologic restoration.

There are also 21 projects listed in the CPRA 2024 Annual Plan, nine of which are currently in construction.

The CPRA requested funding from Louisiana’s surplus money for four priority projects: $3.5 million for the White Lake Conservation Project in Vermillion Parish, $6 million for the Gulf Coast Shoreline Project in Cameron, $2 million for the Wildhorse Ridge Project in Calcasieu Parish and $13.5 million to add to Southwest Coastal Project.

One part of the Southwest Coastal Project is already fully funded. Over $200 million for non-structural home elevation projects is 100% funded by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). These projects will elevate residential, business and warehouse structures.

In Cameron and lower Calcasieu, approximately 3500 residences, 300 businesses and 150 warehouses have been identified as eligible for funding.

USACE will be implementing the projects in addition to funding them.

The board also expressed their stance on Risk Rating 2.0, a recently implemented risk rating methodology that uses technology to more accurately determine a single property’s flood risk.

For property owners in high risk areas, this methodology has led to spikes in flood insurance.

“There are grave concerns throughout the coastal communities of Louisianan about the soundness of Risk Rating 2.0,” said Barnett.

She said that according to Louisiana’s levee boards, Risk Rating 2.0 does not properly consider the improvements those boards have made or home elevation efforts that have been conducted to the flood protection systems or “its catastrophic effect on Louisiana’s flood insurance rates and the ability of Louisiana’s homeowners to purchase flood insurance.”

Risk Rating 2.0 has only negligible impacts on the insurance rates for structures that elevate their structure above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) she said. The board fears that without impactful benefits from Risk Rating 2.0, people will be forced to move from high-risk areas, which would directly impact industry.

“People and businesses are likely to be priced out of their properties and forced to move out of the area, which will decrease the tax base and its ability to fulfill its statutory charge to construct and maintain shoreline protection efforts and levees… as more development of industries’ expansion of industry in the southwest Louisiana region continues, it is extremely important for these companies to have places for their employees to work and live,” she said.