The persistent disappearance of Louisiana coastlands poses a threat to the state and national economy as well as to the coastal communities and their residents’ livelihoods. Louisiana’s leaders have a responsibility and a great opportunity to address this creeping danger by using newly allocated resources efficiently and effectively for restoration and protection. For its citizens as well as for stakeholders nationally, Louisiana must demonstrate transparency and accountability in its coastal spending practices and decision-making process.
The New Louisiana Purchase, by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR), provides a citizen primer on the state’s coastal challenges while illustrating what is known and yet to be decided about how billions of dollars will be allocated and contracted in the name of coastal protection during the next few years. The report also provides guidance and specific recommendations for how state, federal and local leaders should proceed to safeguard precious finances and the public trust. Settlements from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and other sources of revenue will be flowing to the state for years to come. Much of the BP money is regulated by court decisions, federal agencies and special authorities outside the Louisiana sphere of control, and yet many critical decisions on these and other funds will be made on the state and local level.
This report focuses on the financial, budgeting, planning, governance and contracting aspects of state coastal management rather than on environmental issues and specific restoration projects. PAR has been working with a diverse group of stakeholders to develop this area of research and recommendations, including business, environmental and education groups and government agencies. PAR’s researchers have conducted extensive interviews, document reviews and collaborative forums. This report provides information about many of those stakeholders and their resources available to the public.
Although Louisiana does not have a perfect record in its stewardship of coastal funds, its overall performance has been good. The state has established laws, plans and procedures that are superior to other Gulf Coast states. Its coastal agency has been allowed to act with a healthy level of independence. Its Coastal Master Plan was widely vetted and based on objective and scientific principles. Its former and current coastal leaders have shown strong commitment and deep knowledge. So far, so good. But now the coastal money is beginning to flow at substantially greater levels and from more sources. A new administration and Legislature has taken office. Fresh temptations will come to bear, especially as pressure builds to find money for the state’s perpetually distressed operating budget and local pork projects.
The state and its local governments must lead by example and make responsible investment decisions that will ensure its citizens, Washington and the nation that protection of the Louisiana coast is in both the state and national interest and worth both state and national support. Louisiana should demonstrate that the dollars will be wisely safeguarded.