Aug 16, 2010 3:57 PM by Melissa Canone
GRAND ISLE - As part of Governor Bobby Jindal's Agenda to Revitalize Louisiana, he visited a coastal restoration project at Bay Joe Wise to highlight his long-term recovery plan for restoring Louisiana's coast. The Bay Joe Wise project is part of the larger Barataria Basin Barrier Shoreline Restoration Project (BBBS Project) which is one of 18 coastal restoration, hurricane and flood protection and freshwater diversion projects that have already been authorized for construction by Congress, which Governor Jindal is calling on the federal government to prioritize and complete in order to help restore Louisiana's coast following the oil spill.
Following the tour at Bay Joe Wise, the Governor held a press conference where he was joined by Luke Keller of BP's Gulf Coast Restoration Organization to announce that BP is providing $15 million to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to support mental health services for people impacted by the oil spill.
Governor Jindal said, "We flew over East Grand Terre and landed on a barrier island adjacent to Bay Joe Wise today, where open water existed just last year. The Bay Joe Wise project was constructed in cooperation with NOAA. Construction began in the summer of 2008 and was completed last August, creating nearly 600 acres of land and an estimated three million cubic yards of dredge material, including a 1,000-foot-wide marsh platform and 220 acres of barrier marsh. This project was supported by about $42.9 million in state and federal funds.
"Just north of where we were today, we restored nearly 2,000 acres of the Barataria Landbridge using about $35 million in Coastal Impact Assistance and Breaux Act funds. These projects took us just years to move from conception to construction - not decades like many coastal projects authorized by Congress that are still not fully funded or constructed. Currently, we have another $70 million in coastal funds dedicated to work on the Caminada component of the BBBS Project, further underscoring the state's commitment to moving ahead and getting this work done. We know we do not have decades to wait for the federal government to do studies. Especially in this critical period when we need to revitalize Louisiana from the effects of the largest oil spill in history, we must have the federal government partner with us to restore our coast and not mire us in red tape and bureaucracy."
MENTAL HEALTH FUNDING
BP announced today that they are providing $15 million to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to support efforts to help residents in coastal communities get access to needed behavioral health services as they recover from the effects of the oil spill. BP also announced funding today for a special toll free phone line established by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration where people can reach out for information on available services in their area.
Of the $15 million commitment, at least $6.6 million will go to fund services lead by Catholic Charities and other non-governmental organizations. The remaining funds will support services from the state and local human service districts. Specifically, these funds will support outreach, family and individual counseling services and even clinical visits and medication, if necessary.
Governor Jindal said, "We worked long and hard to get to this announcement today. I want to thank BP for stepping up to the plate to make the announcement possible. We first requested $10 million to support mental health services in May for six months. We then revised this request to make a $28 million request to support mental health services on our coast for 13 months. Last week, BP offered us $7 million for six months as a bridge to a more comprehensive recovery plan, but we rejected that offer and pushed BP to evaluate the data showing the need for more services. They saw that our needs far outweighed that level of funding - so we are very pleased today with BP's commitment of $15 million.
"This is an important part of our Agenda to Revitalize Louisiana. We must help our people get back to work and resume their pre-spill lives. The funds we requested and BP has now promised will support six months of continued outreach activities of DHH's Louisiana Spirit program and provide therapeutic and psychiatric services through our locally-governed human services districts and community-based organizations.
To date, Louisiana Spirit teams have engaged 7,000 people directly and thousands more through public education encouraging them to seek help.
In addition to Luke Keller, Governor Jindal was also joined by Rob Gorman of Catholic Charities, Lisa Schilling of the South Central Louisiana Human Services Authority, Mike Teague of the Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority, Dr. Tony Spier of DHH's Behavioral Health Disaster Response Team and Dr. Becky Tabony who manages the Louisiana Spirit Team in Grand Isle.
IMPORTANCE OF BBBS PROJECT
The Barataria Basin Barrier Shoreline Restoration Project was identified as a critical near-term restoration project six years ago. The BBBS project is a regional segment of the Gulf coast of Louisiana between the west bank of the Mississippi River at the active delta and the eastern shore of TerrebonneBay. This restoration project will reconstruct coastal landforms of the barrier shoreline in the BaratariaBasin to restore the barrier shoreline ecosystem and significantly reduce the loss of estuarine and freshwater wetlands. This BaratariaBay area has also been directly impacted by the oil spill.
The project will include the restoration of the Caminada Headland and ShellIsland through shoreline and marsh restoration, which will restore critical habitats and the long-term sustainability of the barrier shoreline.
Due to the continuing and extensive land loss, ShellIsland is gradually converting to a series of interconnecting bays directly connected to the Gulf of Mexico. The Caminada Headland in Port Fourchon is where approximately 18 percent of the nation's oil supply is transported through and is the land base for the LouisianaOffshoreOilPort, which handles approximately 15 percent of the nation's foreign oil imports and is connected by pipelines to 50 percent of the United States refinery capacity.
Governor Jindal said, "These barrier landforms provide unique habitats that are crucial to the viability of migratory birds, commercial and recreational fisheries, and a great variety of aquatic species. The restoration of these critical areas are vital to not only our rich natural habitats, but to our economy and even our national security."
AGENDA TO REVITALIZE LOUISIANA - COASTAL RESTORATION COMPONENT
The first main component of the Governor's Agenda to Revitalize Louisiana is to simply implement the $9 billion in coastal projects that have already been authorized by the U.S. Congress for construction.
Governor Jindal said, "We have briefed Secretary Mabus, White House Officials and many other federal officials including our congressional delegation about this plan and we continue to push for these vital projects to be funded to restore our coast. The time to act is now. We have the solutions and many of the authorizations we already need for these projects from Congress. Now, BP and our federal partners must act immediately and join us in accomplishing this critical component of our Agenda to Revitalize Louisiana from the oil spill."
A total of 18 coastal restoration, hurricane and flood protection and freshwater diversion projects have already been authorized for construction. These projects include:
· MRGO Environmental Restoration
· Small Diversion at HopeCanal
· BaratariaBasin Barrier Shoreline Restoration
· Small Bayou Lafourche Reintroduction
· Medium Diversion with Dedicated Dredging at Myrtle Grove
· Gulf Shoreline at Point Au FerIsland
· Land bridge between CaillouLake and Gulf of Mexico
· Modification of Caernarvon Diversion
· Modification of Davis Pond Diversion
· Multi-purpose Operation of Houma Navigation Lock
· TerrebonneBasin Barrier Shoreline Restoration
· Convey AtchafalayaRiver to Northern Terrebonne Marshes
· Small Diversion at Convent / BlindRiver
· AmiteRiverDiversionCanal Modification
· Medium Diversion at White Ditch
· Southwest Integrated Coastal Program
· Diversion at Violet
· Morganza to the Gulf
Governor Jindal said he is working with coastal leaders and the state's federal delegation to ensure that these projects are immediately funded through a variety of funding mechanisms, including:
· First - Louisiana is asking for a commitment of $250 million from previously-appropriated mitigation funds for hurricane protection repairs related to Hurricane Katrina to be dedicated to key restoration projects immediately.
· Second - The state is requesting an immediate investment from BP to begin addressing Natural Resource Damage Assessment remediation actions through coastal wetlands recovery and restoration.
· Third - The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act funding should be moved up to the current fiscal year rather than have the federal government wait until 2017 to share these funds with the Gulf states. The deepwater drilling moratorium only exacerbates the state's coastal challenges. Under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006, offshore energy revenues are shared with the state. With a moratorium on new offshore production, these revenues are further delayed and it creates additional uncertainty that prevents Louisiana's ability to bond the revenue stream. Under the state's constitution, these funds are dedicated to coastal restoration and hurricane protection.
· Fourth - Part of funding these authorized coastal protection projects should also come from annual federal resource agency funds for construction of the above projects.
· Fifth -Under the Clean Water Act, BP is liable for fines attributable to the discharge of oil into the environment/water. The state anticipates that the fines associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will total into the billions of dollars. These funds from BP could be put towards "Supplemental Environmental Projects" which would include coastal restoration projects. The state has requested that BP and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency work together with the state to develop a supplemental environmental project program
The Governor also said that this investment should be combined with eliminating federal policies that conflict with coastal restoration projects. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year dredging navigation channels in south Louisiana so over 30 states can import and export maritime commerce. However, the material dredged from these channels is then dumped in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico rather than placed back into coastal areas where wetlands could be restored. It is estimated that if dredge material were placed in coastal areas, 12-16 square miles of land could be built annually.
In just the last five years, coastal Louisiana lost an estimated 225,000 to 250,000 acres of land - that is equivalent to six and a half times the size of Washington, DC that is now gone. The replacement cost of these lost coastal wetlands is estimated to be over $15 billion, which is an estimated $65,000 an acre for restoration. Since the 1930s, when levees were installed on the lower Mississippi River system, Louisiana lost an average of up to 29 square miles of coastal lands annually. This means that every day since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost coastal wetlands that will cost an estimated $3.3 million a day to replace. Nearly 29,000 days have passed since the early 1930s and total replacement costs since then is now estimated to be about $96 billion.