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Context of 'July 15, 2004: Bush Administration Opposes Legislation to Fund Restoration of Louisiana’s Coastal Wetlands Using Oil and Gas Royalties'

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The State of Louisiana, the US Army Corps of Engineers, federal agencies, local governments, academics, and local community groups work together to develop a comprehensive restoration plan aimed at rebuilding Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The plan, named “Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coast,” outlines more than 80 restoration concepts that will serve as the basis for the more technical “Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Comprehensive Coastwide Study” that will eventually be submitted to the White House in 2004 (see October 2003). The Coast 2050 plan is a direct outgrowth of lessons learned from implementation of restoration projects under the Breaux Act (see November 29, 1990) and reflects a growing recognition that a more comprehensive systemic approach is needed. It is estimated that the Coast 2050 plan would cost $14 billion over the next 30 years to implement and require an annual budget of $470 million. It would restore natural drainage along Louisiana’s coast and direct the movement of sediment from the Mississippi to rebuild marshes. One of the plan’s strategies would be to install sediment traps at key locations in the river, from where sediment would be pumped through 100-mile long pipelines to rebuild wetlands and barrier islands. [Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 1/2003 pdf file; Civil Engineering, 6/2003; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file; Civil Engineering, 7/2004; USA Today, 8/30/2005] The Coast 2050 plan is endorsed by all 20 Louisiana coastal parishes, the federal Breaux Act (CWPPRA) Task Force, the State Wetlands Authority, and various environmental organizations, including the Coalition to Save Coastal Louisiana. “This approval is unprecedented,” says the Louisiana Coastal Area website. [National Wetlands Research Center, 9/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana State Wetlands Authority, CWPPRA Task Force, Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coast, US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The US Corps of Engineers submits a draft report package and a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on the proposed Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) wetlands restoration study (see March 2002-October 2003) to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The Corps is hoping that the report will be released this month, so it can be used to request congressional authorization in fall 2004 for the plan’s basic framework. But its release is held up by questions from the OMB and CEQ. In February 2004 (see February 2, 2004), the Bush administration will provide formal comments about the plan to the Corps in its 2005 proposed budget, directing the Corps to develop a less costly plan that focuses on narrower, shorter term objectives. [Associated Press, 1/29/2004; Associated Press, 2/3/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 4/2004 pdf file; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Management and Budget, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

During President Bush’s visit to Louisiana, Governor Kathleen Blanco asks the president in a private conversation to include $50 million in his budget to begin construction work on the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) wetlands restoration project. She follows up with a formal letter outlining her request. [Associated Press, 2/3/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

In a six-page letter to the congressional conference-committee charged with combining the House (see April 21, 2005) and Senate (see June 28, 2005) versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6), Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman expresses the Bush administration’s strong opposition to a provision that would grant coastal oil-producing states like Louisiana a share of the royalties from offshore oil and gas operations. Historically, the royalties have been paid exclusively to the federal government. [Houma Today, 7/21/2005; Houma Today, 7/23/2005; Salon, 9/1/2005] Bodman writes in his letter that “The administration strongly opposes” the new funding. “These provisions are inconsistent with the president’s 2006 budget and would have a significant impact on the budget deficit.” [Salon, 9/1/2005] The statement also says, “The administration recognizes that coastal Louisiana is an environmental resource of national significance and has worked closely with the state of Louisiana to produce a near-term coastal wetlands restoration plan to guide how the next phase of restoration projects in Louisiana will be identified, prioritized, and sequenced.” [Houma Today, 7/21/2005] Craig Stevens, the press secretary for the Department of Energy, later explains to Salon: “We didn’t object to the idea in principle. [Rather, we objected to] part of the way it was crafted.” [Salon, 9/1/2005] Bodman also takes issue with the House’s WRDA bill (see April 13, 2005). WRDA, or the Water Resources Development Act, provides federal authorization for water resources projects. The House bill would require the federal government to pay 65 percent of the cost of the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) restoration project, leaving the remaining 35 percent for state and local governments to pay. “The cost-share paid by the general taxpayer for the Everglades restoration effort is 50 percent, and this should likewise be the maximum federal contribution for the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway and coastal Louisiana restoration efforts.” If the Fed’s portion of the bill were 65 percent, the letter argues, it would “create expectations for future appropriations that cannot be met given competing spending priorities within the overall need for spending restraint, including deficit reduction.” Adam Sharp, spokesman for Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), notes however that the 50-50 cost-share formula for the Everglades is an exception to the Corps’ practice, not the rule. Indeed, in January (see January 2005), the Corps recommended the 65-35 cost share formula in its report on the coastal plan to Congress saying that such a split would be “consistent with existing law and Corps policy.” [Houma Today, 7/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, Craig Stevens, Samuel W. Bodman

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

In the southwest Louisiana parish of Cameron, the US Army Corps of Engineers presents its recently downsized Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Restoration Plan (see July 2, 2004) to about 25 local residents, scientists, and environmental activists. People attending the meeting are angered that not one of the 15 major projects included in the revised plan are in southwest Louisiana. Apparently, several proposed projects that were included in the first draft of the LCA plan (see October 2003), including a plan to build major navigational locks at the mouths of the Sabine and Calcasieu rivers to prevent saltwater from seeping into freshwater marshland, are absent in the current plan. In this part of the state, saltwater intrusion has eaten away at the delicate marsh grass, both a key hurricane buffer and marine life breeding ground. [Associated Press, 7/29/2004]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The US Army Corps of Engineers releases its final report and programmatic environmental impact statement on the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study. The plan would cost $1.9 billion and take ten years to implement. The Corps recommends a 65-35 federal-state cost-sharing formula, with the federal government contributing $1.28 billion, and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources paying the rest. The comment period will end on December 6, after which point a Chief of Engineers report will be completed and provided to the Secretary of the Army for review and submission to Congress. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/8/2004; US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004] The LCA ecosystem restoration plan contains several components:
Near-Term Critical Restoration Features - “The recommended plan includes a number of critical restoration projects, five of which are recommended for near-term continued study, design, and implementation. These five projects address the most critical ecological needs of the coastal area and address a range of effects essential for success in restoring the coast. The five near-term critical restoration features are (1) Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Environmental Restoration Features; (2) Small Diversion at Hope Canal; (3) Barataria Basin Barrier Shoreline Restoration, Caminada Headland, Shell Island; (4) Small Bayou Lafourche Reintroduction; and (5) Medium Diversion at Myrtle Grove with Dedicated Dredging.” In addition to these five projects, an additional ten near-term critical restoration features are recommended for study and future congressional authorization. The strategies that the Corps intends to implement in these projects include “(1) Freshwater and sediment re-introductions by diverting some Mississippi River flows into hydrologic basins; (2) Barrier island restoration through placement of sand from offshore sources or the Mississippi River to sustain key geomorphic structures; (3) This would help protect the ecology of estuarine bays and marshes by reducing gulf influences as well as protect nationally important water bird nesting areas; (4) Hydrologic modifications to help restore salinity and marsh inundation patterns and provide fishery access in previously unavailable habitats; and (5) Creating a marsh platform for habitat in areas near existing navigation channels through the beneficial use of maintenance dredging material.” [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004; National Wetlands Research Center, 12/15/2004]
Science and Technology Program - “The major goal of the program would be to decrease scientific and engineering uncertainties of restoration efforts and to optimize restoration opportunities.” [National Wetlands Research Center, 12/15/2004]
Science and Technology Program Demonstration Projects - “The recommended plan includes funding over a 10-year period for demonstration projects to be developed by the Science and Technology Program. These projects will cost a maximum of $25 million each.” [National Wetlands Research Center, 12/15/2004]
Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Program - This program intends to use “dredged material to restore, protect, and create aquatic and wetland habitats in connection with construction or maintenance dredging of an authorized project.” [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004]
Modifications Program - The Corps will investigate how existing structures or their operation management plans can be modified to improve environmental performance. [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004]
Large-Scale and Long-Term Concepts Requiring Detailed Study - This study will “determine their potential for achieving restoration objectives beyond the critical needs, near-term focus of other LCA Plan components.” [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

the US Army Corps of Engineers submits the final draft of the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study to Congress for WRDA authorization. WRDA, or the Water Resources Development Act, provides federal authorization for water resources projects. The Corps recommends that Congress approve a federal-state cost sharing ration of 65 percent federal, 35 percent state. A 65-35 split would be “consistent with existing law and Corps policy,” the Corps says. [Houma Today, 7/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Congress

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approves the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2005 (S.728), which includes authorization (but not appropriation of funds) for the $1.9 billion Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study. The federal contribution to the project would be 65 percent, with the State of Louisiana, paying the remainder. “This legislation is a major breakthrough toward ensuring the future of our unique way of life in coastal Louisiana,” Rep. David Vitter, (R-LA), says in a statement. “It is critical for this authorization to be included in WRDA so that Congress can aggressively appropriate federal funds to restore Louisiana’s coast.” [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 4/17/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Congress, David Vitter

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The House passes its version of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6). One provision, secured by Louisiana Congressman Bobby Jindal, (R-Kenner), would provide Louisiana with up to $1 billion in offshore oil and gas royalties every year beginning in 2016. Louisiana and its coastal parishes would use the money to fund coastal wetland restoration efforts. Historically, offshore gas and oil royalties have been paid exclusively to the federal government, since these operations are conducted on federal territory. But Louisiana has long argued that a portion of this money should be used to help fund efforts aimed at restoring Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, the disappearance of which has been partly attributed to Gulf Coast oil and gas operations. A similar provision is included in the Senate version of the bill (see June 28, 2005). [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 4/17/2005]

Entity Tags: Bobby Jindal, US Congress

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Senate passes its version of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6). Like the House version of the bill (see April 21, 2005), it includes a provision that would divert a portion of offshore oil and gas royalties to coastal energy producing states like Louisiana. But unlike the House version, which would give Louisiana $1 billion in royalties every year beginning in 2016, the Senate version would only provide Louisiana with $540 million over a four-year period beginning in fiscal year 2007. Louisiana would use the money to fund projects aimed at restoring the state’s coastal wetlands. The bill is referred to a conference committee (see July 29, 2005) charged with resolving the differences between the House and Senate versions. [New Orleans CityBusiness, 6/23/2005]

Entity Tags: US Congress

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Several prominent former Louisiana politicians sign a letter urging President Bush to support the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6)‘s provisions for revenue sharing (see April 21, 2005) (see June 28, 2005). Endorsed by former Governors Mike Foster (R-LA), Buddy Roemer (R-LA), David Treen (R-LA) and former Senators John Breaux (D-LA) and J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA), the letter states: “Louisiana puts an average of $5 billion each year into the Federal treasury from revenues produced off its shore. Energy Bill provisions that would give a meaningful share of those revenues through direct payments to Louisiana and other coastal states that host so much of the nation’s energy production are critical.” [Associated Press, 7/22/2005; Louisiana, 7/22/2005]

Entity Tags: Buddy Roemer, J. Bennett Johnston, Mike Foster, David Treen, George W. Bush, John Breaux

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

In a letter to President Bush, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco urges the president and his energy secretary, Samuel W. Bodman, to visit the Louisiana coast and see first-hand the deteriorating condition of the state’s coastal wetlands. She wants the administration to reconsider its objection (see July 15, 2004) to a provision in the House (see April 21, 2005) and Senate (see June 28, 2005) versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6) that would channel oil and gas royalties from offshore operations to coastal states for coastal wetland restoration. In her letter, she emphasizes how Louisiana’s disappearing wetlands is making the oil and gas industry’s vast network of pipelines increasingly vulnerable to damage. She also stresses that coastal wetlands have historically protected the coast from the full fury of hurricanes and, without this barrier, a major hurricane could devastate low-elevation coastal communities like New Orleans. “Let me show you the fragile wetlands that are the only protection for the thousands of miles of pipelines that connect this nation to 80 percent of its offshore energy supply and to a full third of all its oil and gas, both foreign and domestic. The vulnerability of those protective wetlands is all the more apparent to our two million coastal zone residents during this active hurricane season.” [Louisiana, 7/20/2005; Houma Today, 7/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush, Samuel W. Bodman

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

A House and Senate conference committee working to consolidate conflicting House and Senate versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6) agree on a final draft. One conflict between the two versions was a provision that would require the federal government to share royalties from offshore oil and gas operations with coastal oil-producing states. The committee decides in favor of the Senate version (see June 28, 2005), which would provide coastal states with about $1 billion dollars over a period of four years. Most of the money, $540 million, would go to Louisiana. The House version (see April 21, 2005) of the bill would have provided $1 billion in oil and gas royalties annually to Louisiana, but not until 2016. That version was rejected as was a proposal put forth by the Bush administration (see July 22, 2005) that would have reduced Louisiana’s share to only $54 million. Bush signs the bill into law on August 8. [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 7/26/2005; Boston Globe, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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