The Courier, Houma, La., on improving coordination along coast

March 17
The Courier, Houma, La., on improving coordination along coast:
Water doesn’t care about parish boundaries.
Unfortunately, the political subdivisions our state has created to protect us from water start and stop at political boundaries, a situation that makes it more difficult for the levee boards to go about their important work.
The state should have one body that oversees levee construction and maintenance across the coast. But political pressures make that common sense approach all but impossible.
One local legislator, though, is pushing a next best thing.
State Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, has proposed a measure that would set up the Coastal Louisiana Levee Consortium, essentially making it easier for the different levee boards to cooperate with one another and share information and expertise.
“We can compare notes. Terrebonne has problems they don’t have anywhere else but might have a few years from now,” said Terrebonne Levee Director Reggie Dupre.
The idea is a good one, and Dupre should know. He helped pass a bill in 2006 when he held Chabert’s seat setting up the board, but it never met.
Now, though, with the state expecting large fines from BP’s 2010 oil spill — much of which will be dedicated to coastal work — it is essential that the many different levee boards have a mechanism for cooperating with one another to establish sensible priorities.
The overall goals of the consortium will be to look at regional approaches to flood protection and to oversee efforts to restore our coastal wetlands.
While the levee boards currently meet with one another through the Association of Levee Boards of Louisiana, that group is not public, so it has little accountability.
With the state in charge of the consortium, there should be significantly more communication and cooperation among the levee boards and between the boards and the public they exist to protect.
This would clearly be a step forward for coastal observers who advocate a more cooperative approach to our most pressing coastal issues.
It won’t cure everything, and it is still much more cumbersome and inefficient than a united levee board looking after the coast, but it is better than what we have.
Chabert, as well as Dupre and Windell Curole, the Lafourche levee director, deserve this region’s support and appreciation for striving to improve a mechanism that desperately needs it.
Our levee boards are filled with people who have vast amounts of knowledge about small areas of the coast. The challenge will be to communicate and coordinate that knowledge into a workable coastal plan.
This is a step forward.

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