| The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate
While Louisiana will not receive any construction money in the second phase of the latest RESTORE Act draft funding plan, the state is expected to get $1 million to fund various research and planning initiatives.
In the first phase of awards, announced in February, Louisiana received $130 million to build a freshwater diversion in the Maurepas Swamp. Louisiana officials and advocates said they anticipated far less this round.
“This was not a surprise because they had such significant funding from the first phase,” said Rachel Rhode, a project analyst with the Environmental Defense Fund and the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition. In the second phase, she said, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council took a closer look at states that weren’t included earlier this year.
Passed in 2012, the federal RESTORE Act determines how $5.3 billion in Clean Water Act fines assessed after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion are distributed to states affected by the oil disaster.
The awards announced this week come from the second of five pools of RESTORE Act money, known as Bucket 2.
While money in three of the pools is doled out according to a formula, with each of the five Gulf of Mexico states receiving a certain share, all five may compete for money from Bucket 2. The 11-member Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council evaluates the projects and distributes the money. All funding from the fifth bucket goes to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Louisiana might still benefit from two gulfwide programs that could receive money this cycle for tribal youth and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GulfCorps.
The additional $1 million announced this week will be split across four projects. It includes $300,000 to evaluate the market potential for implementing a carbon credit system and an estimate for the amount of carbon captured in conserved and restored wetlands.
This project would be an incremental step toward Gov. John Bel Edwards’ goal for Louisiana to be carbon-neutral by 2050.
“We look forward to applying these planning grant funds … to advance several of the governor’s critical second-term coastal priorities and to apply the best available science to our coastal program and our coastal master plan,” said Chip Kline, Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority chairman.
The state also will work with the Water Institute of the Gulf, a nonprofit research group, on a $290,000 project to create a centralized space for models to aid the state in developing project proposals for the next RESTORE Council funding plan.
The other two projects will take $200,000 to identify prime areas for oysters on the coast to support restoration project planning and $153,000 to create a portal to visualize data created by the state’s Lowermost Mississippi River Management Program. That program assesses the environmental effects of how the river has been managed historically.
During the Governor’s Advisory Commission meeting Wednesday, Chris Barnes, a lawyer for the coastal authority, said the Restoration Council is expected to embark on another phase of funding in the spring of 2024. Bucket 2 still holds more than $400 million.