Louisiana DNR Redefines Coastal Zone Boundry

, with recommendations on changes to the boundary set more than 30 years ago to ensure it meets the coastal zone management needs of the state and its people.

Key recommendations in the study include –

  • Supplementing the Coastal Use Permit method of managing the Coastal Management Zone, with an “Intergovernmental Coordination Zone” that requires governmental projects or actions involving major changes to water flow or management to obtain a determination that they are consistent with the Louisiana Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast
  • The addition of a portion of Ascension Parish to the Coastal Management Zone, bringing the total number of parishes within the zone from 19 to 20
  • A net increase in the area covered by the zone of almost 2,000 square miles – nine parishes would see increases of Coastal Zone area of 52 to 570 square miles ( Ascension, Assumption, Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin,  and Terrebonne); two would see decreases of 144 to 50 square miles (Livingston and Tangipahoa); and the rest would see no changes

The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), acting upon the direction of the state Legislature, authorized the comprehensive study and evaluation of the coastal zone boundary by DNR’s Office of Coastal Management in 2009. DNR delivered that evaluation report at the Wednesday meeting of the CPRA. The report was conducted over the course of approximately one year – with the state providing $100,000 in funding, and federal funds providing up to $342,000.

The Coastal Zone Management Program, enacted by the federal government in 1972, creates state and federal partnerships with the goal of protecting, restoring and responsibly developing coastal communities and resources. Louisiana created its coastal management program within the federal guidelines in 1978.

The program gives DNR the authority to regulate development activities and manage resources within the defined coastal zone.

“In the three decades since the coastal zone boundary was originally set, we have seen changes in the landforms and waters of our coast; erosion has advanced and hurricanes have brought sudden, drastic changes to coastal areas. We have also continued to make use of the best science to find new processes, new programs and better understanding of the factors that impact our coastal zone,” said Louis Buatt, assistant secretary with DNR’s Office of Coastal Management.

The recommended changes in the primary Coastal Management Zone boundary more accurately reflect the most up-to-date scientific understanding of the functioning of the complex systems that shape Louisiana’s coast, Buatt said.

The introduction of the Intergovernmental Coordination Zone is intended to more appropriately recognize and manage the impacts on coastal areas and wetlands of projects or actions involving major hydrologic modifications by governmental entities – such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ management of the Old River Control Structure on the Mississippi River.

The health of Louisiana’s coast is crucial to both the entire state and the nation:

  • Nearly half the state’s population lives in coastal parishes
  • More than half of the state’s annual revenues are generated in the coastal zone
  • Five of the top 15 tonnage ports in the U.S. depend on the coastal zone
  • About 26 percent of the oil and 26 percent of the natural gas used by the nation flow through Louisiana
  • Louisiana has been the top producer in the lower 48 states in fisheries, and the top producer in the nation of oysters, blue crabs and crawfish.

The coastal zone designation can be important to parishes because they can be eligible for funding, loans and participation in coastal programs, but also take on new funding and regulatory responsibilities.

The CPRA’s directive called for the coastal zone study to be science-based, to consider existing legal issues and other state coastal programs, to take economic concerns such as energy, fisheries, maritime transport and tourism into account, and to consider archaeological and cultural concerns.

The Office of Coastal Management depended primarily on its experienced staff of coastal scientists in conducting the study, but also drew from the expertise of Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure, Comite Resources and the Louisiana Sea Grant Law and Policy Program to assist in some portions.

“With the unprecedented levels of support and attention this issue has gained at the state and national level, we must ensure that our approach to managing the coast is not only based in science and takes into account the critical social, cultural and economic aspects of the coastal area, but that we are targeting the right areas of the state in the most appropriate way,” Buatt said.

More information on the coastal zone study can be found athttp://dnr.louisiana.gov/crm.

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