BATON ROUGE, LA – Without fanfare but with significant possibilities, a bi-partisan bill authored by Rep. Walt Leger III (D) and Rep. Stuart Bishop (R), worked its way through the Louisiana Legislature and onto the Governors desk. The America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF), a long time advocate for alternative and private sector financing mechanisms for coastal restoration, applauds the effort.

House Bill 596 will have a profound affect on Louisiana’s coastal restoration efforts for years to come. When the Governor signs it into law, it will allow the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) to leverage existing dollars and finance the design and construction of projects with private dollars.

“For more than five years, AWF has hosted forums to highlight the significance of private sector investment in restoring our coast and has built a demonstration project to prove potential concepts,” said Val Marmillion, AWF managing director. “We are seeing coastal restoration become big business and with it a growing interest in private financing programs.”

Representative Leger had earlier chaired an AWF initiative that brought in private investment firms to explore mechanisms to grow funding for the State’s ambitious $50 billion restoration program. What emerged was information on large investment pools seeking green programs around ecosystem sustainability, ready when the climate was right for such investment in a state’s program.

“With outcome-based or ‘Pay for Success’ projects, the state doesn’t have to pay until the project is completed and the risk for the project transfers from the state to the private sector. This is an extraordinary opportunity to put coastal restoration on a fast track ,” said Sidney Coffee, senior advisor to the America’s WETLAND Foundation.

“Finding innovative funding mechanisms for coastal restoration led AWF to seek private funding and new innovative and cost effective techniques to restore embankments along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW),” Marmillion said. “This legislation can revolutionize financing for coastal restoration and once again keep Louisiana in the lead

GIWW Project
America’s WETLAND Foundation’s GIWW Project one year after installation. Photo courtesy of Martin Ecosystems.

In October of last year Louisiana’s Coastal Protection & Restoration (CPRA) and America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) hosted a forum that brought together a diverse group of coastal interests to focus on financing the state’s coastal master plan. One of the recommendations that resulted from that meeting was searching for new options for private financing and reviewing the procurement process.

“At that meeting, Speaker Pro-Tempore of the Louisiana House of Representatives, Walt Leger III, said that ‘Louisiana must be able to provide incentives for scaling up private participation in restoration because we have very little time to waste’ and we are pleased that he, indeed, wasted no time and drafted this bill,” Coffee said.