The Heat is On Over Governor Landry’s Plans for the CPRA’s kickoff rally at New Orleans District Army Corps HQ on Jan 21, 2006. Photo/Stanford Rosenthal

Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) has completed 157 projects, benefiting 55,000 acres of coastal wetlands, improving 370 miles of levees and constructing 70 miles of barrier islands.

Now, we feel like its success may be in jeopardy, with the governor’s suggestion to move the flood protection functions currently housed at CPRA under the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR), the newly renamed Department of Natural Resources.

It’s difficult to understand why the state has proposed changes to something that works – and works well. CPRA is now the standard bearer for national efforts to protect people, assets and the natural environment from the threats of hurricanes and sea-level rise. The program that has evolved is supported by countless advocates from a diverse group of stakeholders including community groups, industry, environmental organizations and business interests. The CPRA’s nationally and internationally recognized accomplishments are the result of the agency’s singular focus on coastal protection and restoration.

After Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Congress passed millions in appropriations along with Public Law 109-148, ordering the State of Louisiana to establish a single state or quasi-state entity to act as local sponsor for construction, operation and maintenance of all of the hurricane and flood control projects in the greater New Orleans and southeast Louisiana. The state complied, creating the CPRA.

The chair of the CPRA reports directly to the governor. The CPRA is highly effective, largely due to this stand-alone structure. The CPRA benefits every community along the coast and the entire state.The CPRA is a splendid example of effectiveness and efficiency. Other states and countries are looking to Louisiana as a model for approaching an existential climate and land-loss crisis. CPRA’s science-based planning and project implementation expertise is the gold standard for facing the growing environmental threats facing coasts everywhere.

Moving the restoration and protection functions from CPRA to DENR would dilute and diminish the importance of the hurricane protection and restoration work by diminishing the agency’s status as a standalone, independent entity prominently seated at the forefront of state government.

We also note that the energy industry supports the CPRA and has always participated in drawing up the CPRA’s master plan. Why fix something that is not broken?

Finally, we observe that the governor is calling to reduce the size of the CPRA board and advisory board. If exorbitant amounts of money were spent by taxpayers on supporting these boards, that might make sense. But none of the board members or advisory members have ever received any sort of payment for their time and expertise. How can reducing the knowledge, experience, and talents provided by expert volunteers be good for the state of Louisiana? asks the governor to keep the CPRA intact, not under the Louisiana Department of Energy and Natural Resources, and to maintain the same number of advisors and board members.

A version of this post appeared in The New Orleans Lens on March 19, 2024.

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