2019-09-13 22:07:30

Small businesses interested in working on water management projects in the state have a new resource, The Louisiana Coastal Technical Assistance Center, slated to open in Thibodaux inside Nicholls State University. 

The new center will work with small businesses for training, licensing and other qualifications to prepare companies to bid on coastal recovery projects. 

The partnership includes The Louisiana Coastal Protection Authority, The Water Institute of the Gulf, Louisiana Economic Development department, the South Louisiana Economic Council and Nicholls State University. 

The goal is to prepare as many Louisiana companies before coastal restoration contracts are open for bids. LED and the Louisiana Coastal Protection Authority will chip in a total of $750,000 as seed funding for the center over a span of three years. Nicholls State University plans to offer technical support and research in addition to a shared office space and small business incubator. 

The South Louisiana Economic Council is tasked to oversee operations and develop a business plan. 

“We consider water management one of the key sectors for economic growth in our state,” said Don Pierson, Secretary of the Louisiana Economic Development department in a news release. 

The reason water management may be a budding industry is that the Louisiana coast continues to disappear. 

That’s because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built an extensive levee system in the 1930s to harness the Mississippi River and stop annual flooding to protect communities nearby. But that flooding was key to disperse sediment and build up land over time. Oil and gas industry canals have allowed salt water to seep into the usually freshwater wetlands for decades, which compounds the issue.

It’s estimated that every hour and a half, the state loses another football field’s worth of land.

There are some local businesses that already work on restoration projects. Covington-based Weeks Marine won the construction bid on a $160 million project this week to restore three barrier islands on the edge of Terrebonne Basin. Over a two year period, the company plans to dredge 9.2 million cubic yards of sand to create more than 1,100 acres of land – from beach to dunes and marsh. The project is funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which has been the administrator for the $2.5 billion fund stemming from the BP oil spill settlement. 

There are already $564 million in projects under construction along the coast which includes the Gulf hurricane protection project. There’s another $984 million across eight more restoration projects still in the engineering and design phase. For a list of ongoing protection and restoration projects, click here. 

There is already a similar program in Lafayette, known as the Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center, which helps companies get certified as small businesses or minority-owned companies. 

Interested companies can register to connect with the new center here. http://bayouregion.com/CTAC/

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