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Increased shoreline protection in the works: $9.5 million in federal funds to help prevent additional erosion

LAPLACE — Shoreline protection along Lake Pontchartrain in St. John the Baptist is getting a much-needed jolt of more than $9 million thanks to creative use of anticipated federal revenue.

The parish council adopted an ordinance on Sept. 24 allowing the parish to proceed with issuing  $9.5 million in revenue bonds. The bonds will be used to finance increased shoreline protection along the lake and paid off by the federal government through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA).

Rather than receive the money annually through GOMESA, the parish elected to take the anticipated income in one lump sum to allow for the financing of the project.

President Natalie Robottom noted that St. Charles Parish has already used similar financing to firm up shoreline protection along Lake Pontchartrain, and Tangipahoa Parish is in the midst of a similar project.

GOMESA revenue can only be used for restricted purposes, including coastal restoration, conservation and hurricane protection.
GOMESA created a revenue-sharing model in 2006 for oil and gas producing states along the Gulf of Mexico. Under the act, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas receive a portion of the revenue generated from oil and gas production offshore in the gulf.

The act also directs a portion of revenue to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Attorney Jason Akers of Foley and Judell LLP in New Orleans reassured council members that the bonds are being issued at no risk to the parish. He said the federal government is the sole securer of the bonds.

He anticipates the bonds being awarded by Oct. 30.

Councilman Larry Snyder initially appeared confused by the purpose of the bonds, stating “I have no idea what we want to use (the funds) for. It kind of worries me.”

Parish President Natalie Robottom explained to Snyder the Shoreline Protection Project. She said erosion is evident along the shore.

“This will prevent additional erosion,” Robottom said. “We have worked with St. Charles and Tangipahoa and we are all attempting to shore up the coast of Lake Pontchartrain. We think these dollars will go a long way in completing this.”

Councilman Larry Sorapuru was informed that the funding would not eligible to increase protection of the water wells in Ruddock, which provide water to LaPlace.

In other action, the council approved adopting the parish Adaption Strategy developed by the Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environment (LA SAFE) Program to help guide development in the face of growth and environmental changes for the safety of residents. The   strategy will serve as the long-term resilience plan and shared vision for the parish in the face of increasing flood risks.

The aim of the strategy is to guide future growth to lower-risk areas already served by existing infrastructure.

Also, council members, after some discussion, tabled a proposed ordinance that would have amended the parish’s Code of Ordinances to provide a simpler and more efficient subdivision process, protect critical environmental and enhance the rural historic Main Streets of the parish.

Richard Meek is a contributing writer to L’OBSERVATEUR.