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2023 Master Plan Brings Updates To Coastal Research And Projects – Environmental Law


The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
(CPRA) recently released its 2023 draft Coastal Master Plan, which is
required by law to be updated every six years. The most recent
draft is the fourth update since it was first adopted by the
Louisiana Legislature in 2007 following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
in 2005.1 The coastal forecast and the plan as a whole
were developed under two environmental scenarios – lower and higher
– in order to account for a broader range of environmental
uncertainties than previously done. Under the lower environmental
scenario, if funding is secured and the projects are implemented,
the plan states that it would reduce annual storm surge damage by
$11 billion, the state would save an average of $11,000 in damages
per structure, and 310 square miles of land loss would be
avoided.2 However, the plan also predicts that a lack of
action would result in upwards of $15 billion in annual storm surge
damage, the loss of another 1,100 square miles of land, and more
than two million Louisianians at risk of flooding from storm

The newest plan boasts several updates since the 2017 draft
including an updated project selection process, improved predictive
models, and developments of new risk metrics. A total of 61
restoration projects and 12 risk reduction projects were ultimately
selected for inclusion in the 2023 plan.4 To fund these
projects, a $50 billion overall budget was selected, which will be
evenly divided between restoration projects, such as marsh creation
and barrier island restoration, and risk reduction projects, like
improved levees and elevating homes. The projects and funding are
further divided into two implementation periods, with the most
beneficial projects selected for near-term construction in the
first 20 years of the plan with a budget of $25 billion. In the
restoration project category, a large portion of the allocated
money will be dedicated to projects that dredge sediment from the
Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers or from local bays, with $16
billion allocated to marsh creation projects, and $2.9 billion for
land bridges – combinations of wetlands, ridges and above-water
land – to be built across stretches of open water in the Barataria
and Lafourche basins.5

The 2023 plan divides the coast into five segments, compared to
the three regions used in the 2017 version, and outlines the issues
specific to each region, the suite of selected projects, and the
predicted impacts.6 For example, the plan outlines the
approach taken for the Chenier Plain, which is the southwest
Louisiana coastal region that includes Lake Charles, the Mermentau
Basin, White Lakes Wetlands Conservation Area, and Rockefeller
Wildlife Refuge. 13 marsh creation projects and 2 hydrologic
restoration projects were selected for implementation in the
Chenier Plain to address the storm surge-based flood risks, high
tide flooding, and drainage concerns experienced in this
region.7 In implementing these projects, the 2023 plan
predicts that 23,000 acres of land will be built and maintained in
this region under the lower environmental scenario.8

The next step for the 2023 draft involves public comment and
feedback, including four public hearings scheduled for late January
through mid-February.9 Public comments may also be
submitted through March 25, 2023, via email, regular mail, or in
person at one of the upcoming public hearings. After the public
comment period, the draft will be voted on by the CPRA Board and
ultimately submitted to the Louisiana Legislature for a final

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2 Draft 2023 Coastal Master Plan, p. 92.

3 Draft 2023 Coastal Master Plan, p. 48.

4 This is in addition to smaller scale programmatic
projects that address locally important issues such as shoreline
protection, plantings, and small-scale hydrologic

5 Draft 2023 Coastal Master Plan, p. 75-76, Figure 5.1;

6 Draft 2023 Coastal Master Plan, p. 94-155, Chapter 6 -
“Regional Approach.”

7 Draft 2023 Coastal Master Plan, p. 96-107.

8 Draft 2023 Coastal Master Plan, p. 106.

9 Public hearings scheduled: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on
January 31st; Houma, Louisiana, on February
2nd; New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 7th;
Lake Charles, Louisiana, on February 16th.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.


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