BATON ROUGE, LA – On May 15, a broad coalition of organizations will head to Baton Rouge for a day of action and lobbying for more equitable and inclusive nonstructural flood protections in the 2017 Coastal Master Plan and the FY2018 Annual Plan. The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) will be submitting the Plans for legislative review and approval. The coalition, which includes local, regional, and national organizations, notes that “The Draft 2017 Coastal Master Plan is missing a community economic development approach that is people-centered and benefits low- and moderate-income individuals and families.”
The coalition’s public comment document, submitted to CPRA on March 26, outlines various concerns about the process and the draft documents. Among the demands: Incorporate a community economic development approach throughout the Coastal Master Plan and FY2018 Annual Plan; provide accurate, accessible, and consistent public information through trusted partners; prioritize communities who are most socioeconomically vulnerable, most at risk, and are low-income; value citizens’ scientific knowledge and treat public input as a formal public comment; for every 80 cents spent on restoration and structural projects, spend 20 cents on non-structural projects. The document was supported by 215 individual comments from coalition constituents.
“Our main concern is that the current FY 2018 annual plan allocates only $500,000 for nonstructural program development,” said Rosa Herrin with Oxfam America. This amount is allocated from the state budget Surplus from 2007-2009 – a revenue source which experts have determined is either fully depleted or, at best, depleted by the end of 2018. Also, this amount is insufficient; the percentage for nonstructural spending should be at least 20% of the total amount allocated annually for the master plan. In order to raise a portion of the funds needed for nonstructural projects, CPRA should pass a resolution dedicating a portion of annual offshore energy revenues coming to Louisiana under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) to fund nonstructural flood protection strategies and entrepreneurial support strategies.
In addition, CPRA defines nonstructural flood protections as three options for coastal communities in areas where structures need to be mitigated to meet flood elevation standards: flood-proofing of non-residential structures where the elevation standard is less than 3 ft, elevating homes where the required elevation is between 3 and 14 ft, and acquiring homes (or relocating residents) where the standard is greater than 14 ft. The coalition is asking that this definition be expanded to include a community economic development approach, which would include job training and extending opportunities that allow local small businesses to benefit from contracting opportunities. Also, CPRA should to flip prioritization to focus on residents and entrepreneurs who are most socioeconomically vulnerable, most at risk, and are low-income; and the Authority must value citizens’ scientific knowledge and treat public input as a formal public comment.
The coalition includes Atakapa-Ishak-Chawasha Tribe, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO), Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), Mary Queen of Viet Nam Community Development Corporation (MQVN CDC), Oxfam America, Terrebonne Readiness Assistance Coalition (TRAC), and Zion Travelers Cooperative Center (ZTCC).