BRADENTON, Fla. – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards wants coastal protection projects added to the president's high-priority infrastructure list in order to receive expedited federal approval.
Edwards said the five projects, estimated to cost $3 billion, deserve recognition because of their local and national significance.
The projects will shore up the state's coastline, protecting hunting and fishing resources as well as maritime industries, and ports that handle 60% of the nation's grain and 20% of all national waterborne commerce, said the governor, who is a Democrat.
"I greatly appreciate President Trump taking this important step toward making an unprecedented investment in addressing the infrastructure problems in our state and country," Edwards said. "While Louisiana's roads and bridges are in need of improvement, a single investment will significantly benefit future generations and impact numerous parts of the country and aspects of the nation's economy."
Edwards' request is based on a Jan. 24 executive order signed by President Trump ordering a process for expedited environmental review and approval of projects recommended by governors.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality will determine what projects are qualified.
The executive order applies to "all infrastructure projects, especially projects that are a high priority for the nation, such as improving the U.S. electric grid and telecommunications systems and repairing and upgrading critical port facilities, airports, pipelines, bridges, and highways."
Infrastructure means more than roads and bridges, according to environmental groups supporting Edwards' request.
Infrastructure also means "the large-scale coastal restoration and protection projects that protect those roads and bridges," said a joint statement by Restore the Mississippi River Delta and Coast Builders Coalition.
Louisiana's coastal region suffers from an ongoing severe land loss due to human alterations of the river system, according to Restore the Mississippi River Delta. The five projects nominated by Edwards are also a restoration priority of the coalition.
"Investing in Louisiana coastal protection and restoration will help protect the region's vital industries – including fisheries, oil and gas, transportation and navigation – as well as create jobs and build a sustainable coastal economy," the joint statement said. "These five projects proposed by Governor Edwards are exactly the types of infrastructure investments most appropriate for prioritization under the President's recent executive order."
The five coastal projects are the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, the Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion, the Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex, the Calcasieu Salinity Control Measures, and the River Reintroduction to Maurepas Swamp.
Each has been subjected to rigorous scientific modeling, screening and evaluation as part of the State Coastal Master Plan, and others, Edwards said.
Although the projects are not fully funded, some financing has been approved from the settlement of litigation over the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Cash-strapped Louisiana also has a $13.1 billion backlog of roads and bridge capital needs.
Lawmakers expect to examine new transportation funding sources, such as raising the state gas tax, during the legislative session that begins April 10.