Since 1956, more than 1,500 square miles of wetlands on Louisiana’s coast have vanished – an area one and a half times the size of Rhode Island. It is projected that another 900 square miles will be lost by the year 2050 if nothing is doing, totaling 2,400 square miles of loss – an area representing one third of the entire Louisiana coast. The Louisiana coastal wetlands include more than half of the tidal marshes in the lower 48 states, protect oil and gas pipelines that deliver more than a quarter of the nation’s energy supplies and the world’s largest port system, and support fisheries that supply more than a quarter of the seafood consumed in the lower 48 states. In addition, 80% of coastal marsh loss in the lower 48 states occurs in Louisiana. The Breaux Act was established in 1990 to address the land loss issue in the State of Louisiana.
The goal of the Breaux Act partnership is to design, build, maintain and monitor sustainable projects that create, protect, and restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Under the Breaux Act partnership, five Federal agencies and the State of Louisiana form the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force. The five Federal agencies sponsor individual projects under the program, focusing on their unique agency talents, in cooperation with the State of Louisiana. The Act is an integrated effort among government and scientific resources, private industry, parishes, municipalities and concerned citizens, working as one to preserve the coastal wetlands and the aquatic ecosystem they support. The Task Force, combining the talents of the Federal and State agencies, meets publicly on a quarterly basis to make consensus-based decisions regarding projects under the program. Local “grass roots” decision-making is ingrained into the CWPPRA project selection process, allowing the program to address public needs while simultaneously restoring coastal Louisiana. The program solicits input from the public during annual Regional Planning Team (RPT) meetings where the Federal agencies, State agencies, parishes, municipalities and citizens can nominate potential projects by geographic region for consideration under an annual Priority Project List (PPL). Nominated projects are evaluated by program working groups and an academic advisory group to determine implementation costs and project benefits. In addition to taking into account the engineering and benefit analysis of potential projects, every Task Force decision takes into account public input and support.
Examples of Key Partners
Federal Agencies: Department of Agriculture, Department of the Army, Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency
State Agencies: Louisiana Governor’s Office for Coastal Activities, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Local Agencies: 19 coastal parishes (counties), cities and municipalities, academic community, various NGOs
Results and AccomplishmentsCWPPRA was originally authorized in 1990. Three additional extensions of the authorization extend the program to 2019 (30-year total program life). Total Federal and non-Federal funding over the program life is expected to be $2.0 billion (cost shared 85% Federal/ 15% non-Federal). Over the last 14 years the program has developed a complex restoration plan (Coast 2050 Plan, 1998), authorized 131 projects, constructed and placed 66 projects in operation with the remaining 65 projects either under construction or in design phases. Development of the Coast 2050 Plan involved 65 regional and statewide public meetings at the “grass roots” level. At these meetings, Federal, State, parish and local governments, and the general public collectively developed the coast-wide, regional, and local mapping unit strategies that formed the basis for current Louisiana coastal restoration activities. The Coast 2050 Plan, developed under Breaux Act, was used as a basis for the Corps’ Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) reconnaissance report and other efforts under LCA. Under the Breaux Act program, more than 50,000 acres of wetlands have been protected or restored to date.
The most unique aspect of the plan's implementation is the West Bay Sediment Diversion Project, which opened in May 2004. It reintroduced freshwater and sediment from the Mississippi River into West Bay to help rebuild about 10,000 acres of vegetated wetlands over the next 20 years, the largest of its kind in the world. The project's primary purpose is to rebuild marsh, which was lost to storm events, natural subsidence and lack of sediment and freshwater introduction into the bay dating back to the 1950s.