FILE - Louisiana State Capitol

The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Feds sending $39 million to Louisiana for flood mitigation and coastal restoration

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday announced $14.2 million in federal funding has become available for several statewide projects in FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The dollars were initially allocated in 2017 and the projects are now approved to move forward.

A total of $300 million is being divided among parishes impacted by the 2016 floods. Within the past 30 days, four additional projects have been fully funded while funding for 16 additional projects will be phased to allow environmental studies and engineering and design work to begin. To date, 74 projects totaling $67.6 million have been approved, the governor’s office says.

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy announced $24.8 million in grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana for three projects to create and nourish marsh habitat, build terraces and restore ridge habitat along Louisiana’s coast. Altogether, 1,309 acres of marsh will be created or nourished, Cassidy’s office says.

The largest portion, about $19 million, will go to restore ridge habitat and marshes in Terrebonne Parish.

Gov. Edwards requests federal disaster declaration

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday requested a disaster declaration from the federal government in response to damage created by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Barry.

Though Barry’s rainfall was not as severe as was predicted, it still triggered flash flooding and multiple tornadoes.

The request for a “Major Disaster Declaration” could lead to financial assistance “for activities involved in protection of life and property, removal of debris and the repair, restoration and replacement of damaged facilities,” the governor’s office says. The process for requesting a major disaster declaration requires a more detailed assessment of impacts and costs than the emergency declaration issued by President Trump during the event.

Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Jefferson, Orleans, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. John the Baptist, Tangipahoa, West Feliciana, Allen, Iberia, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Mary, Terrebonne and Vermilion parishes are included in the request, and more could be added later.

Casino revenue keeps falling

Revenue from state casinos continued its downward trend in July, with only two of the 16 properties taking in more money last month than in July of 2018, according to numbers reported Thursday to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.

DiamondJacks and Sam’s Town, both in the Shreveport-Bossier City market, were up more than 6 percent year-over-year. But the market as a whole was down almost 5 percent.

The Lake Charles market was down almost 13 percent, while the New Orleans “riverboat” casinos collectively declined almost 10 percent.

The Baton Rouge market was down just over 9 percent, with the Belle of Baton Rouge again posting the biggest year-over-year decline of any property in the state of 32.7 percent.

The Harrah’s land-based casino, which is listed separately from the 15 river-adjacent casinos, was down more than 13 percent year-over-year.

Louisiana launches online portal to promote development tax breaks

Louisiana Economic Development has launched the Louisiana Opportunity Zones web portal to help investors find properties eligible for the federal Opportunity Zone program.

The Opportunity Zones program is designed to encourage long-term investments in low-income communities. The law provides a federal tax incentive for investors to redirect capital gains into specialized funds that are dedicated to investing in designated low-income areas through both business and real estate projects.

Staff Writer

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.