LIVINGSTON - It's been known since saltwater intrusion into Lake Pontchartrain and Muarepas was first discussed.
Livingston Parish is a coastal community.
Coastal erosion along the Gulf of Mexico has made that even more true today than it was in 2013, when it was first put to paper as part of the original Master Plan.
The southern piece of the parish has to face two issues during high water events, which include heavy rainfalls and hurricanes, because of rising Gulf tides. When Lake Maurepas is high due to tides, and there's heavy rains north of places like French Settlement, Port Vincent, and Maurepas those communities must brace for potential water intrusion into roads and subdivisions, as the rainfall has no where to drain.
There is a silver lining to the coastal designation, however, called the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). The law, passed in 2006, makes available certain funds from leases held by companies in the Gulf to fund coastal restoration projects; coastal conservation projects; and hurricane protection.
The parish is currently utilizing bonded GOMESA funds to pay for waterway cleaning, as well as reparations to the Amite River Weir. The funds were bonded due to concern over congress choosing to re-direct those revenues to other projects. By passing an ordinance and selling the bonds, the current funds are locked in for the life of the debt.
However, the state is not only looking to make sure that congress cannot reallocate those funds to other projects, but they are also seeking a larger share of those revenues.
And they've asked Livingston Parish for help.
A unanimous vote last Thursday showed that parish officials are on board for the push by the state's Washington, D.C. delegation to seek out more cash through the program. Discussions of necessary projects that could be use the funds has already begun, and even one of the Washington delegation threw out a suggestion.
Congressman Garret Graves (R-District 6) tossed out the idea of a levee district to the News over the summer. With Ascension attempting to construct their own levees across the Amite River from the Port Vincent and French Settlement area, Graves suggested that Livingston might have to protect themselves from their neighbors as well as the Gulf.
But, Graves said, that would have to be seed money and local revenues would have to sustain the district. Graves warned against reliance on disaster and regular federal funds, because their consistency is often unknown and, in many cases, control is out of the hands of the very people who need it.
The battle has just begun, however, for an expansion of the GOMESA program. Livingston Parish received $700,000 as part of their share of the first year of the program, which is under Phase II. Phase II began in 2017.