A controversial proposal for elevating LA 1 to Port Fourchon, backed by Governor Jindal, has been drawing fire from the candidates seeking to replace him in the mansion. The plan would have used “leftover” funds from BP, unused because the coastal projects the RESTORE Act funded were completed under budget.
“I would oppose that from this source of funds,” Scott Angelle said during a forum for the governor candidates earlier this week.
But when the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority met Wednesday, chairman Chip Kline announced that a compromise had been reached – to use GOMESA money instead of BP funds.
“Up to 10-percent of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act revenues we will begin to receive in 2017 to be spent on coastal infrastructure projects that are directly impacted by coastal wetland loss,” Kline said of the modified policy proposal.
Some coastal and environmental groups and backers of the Highway One project supported the compromise, which Kline said was allowable under both the federal GOMESA language and Louisiana’s constitutional amendments dedicating GOMESA funding to coastal restoration.
Steve Procopio with the Public Affairs Research Council urged caution.
“Congratulations on jumping out of the frying pan. It remains to be seen on where you’re going to end up, though. I do want to caution you about saying because it’s legal, it’s okay,” Procopio said.
The proposal was approved by the CPRA without objection, although not everyone was pleased. State representative Ray Garofalo of Chalmette said, “I’m not arguing against this kumbayah moment, but at the same time I think it’s very important that I go on the record and state that I think this money should all be dedicated to coastal restoration and protection.”
And it’s precisely the sort of maneuver Jay Dardenne had warned against during the earlier gubernatorial forum.
“We finally have a significant federal source of dollars to start implementing this coastal master plan,” Dardenne said Monday night. “This is exactly the kind of raid that would set the precedent for everybody else to come nibbling away at these dollars that absolutely must be used for coastal erosion.”
Democratic candidate for governor John Bel Edwards sees it as an absolute mistake.
“It is an inappropriate use of coastal restoration dollars to undertake a transportation infrastructure project,” Edwards said. “Coastal restoration dollars should only be spent on coastal restoration.”
But Angelle, who objected to using the RESTORE Act BP money, left the door open for using GOMESA money to elevate LA 1.
“Highway One actually helps us to gain more revenue from the federal offshore area, as so much of the money comes from that area,” Angelle stated.
Angelle served as Governor Jindal’s legislative liason for the past two sessions.
David Vitter did not attend the forum where the LA 1 proposal was discussed.