Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards joined Dr. Jay Clune, president of Nicholls State University and Chip Kline, head of the Coastal Protection Restoration Authority (CPRA) in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create a new coastal studies center at Nicholls. The center, which will be similar to the LSU Center for River Studies, will concentrate on studying and researching the Terrebonne and Atchafalaya Basins and creating models and displays of the Atchafalaya River in order to aid in the implementation of integrated coastal protection projects in the region.
“This is the beginning of a partnership where we can focus our attention on the Atchafalaya River and the potential for it to be a restoration tool for the Terrebonne Basin,” said Governor Edwards. “The Terrebonne Basin has the highest rate of land loss of any basin along our coast, and it presents some of the most difficult conditions for us to implement projects.”
For over 70 years, Nicholls has assumed leadership in training students both from the region and worldwide for careers focused on coastal protection and restoration. Nicholls’ faculty actively participate in various aspects of the coastal program as members of the Governor’s Advisory Commission, technical advisory committees, and Master Plan stakeholder groups.
Chip Kline, Executive Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Activities noted, “Partnerships such as this are a necessary and beneficial aspect of the business of coastal management in Louisiana. Given the expertise among its faculty, this partnership is a natural fit for us and a promising way of furthering our relationship with the community.”
“Nicholls State University is located in the epicenter for coastal restoration with our service area losing more coastal land than anywhere else on the planet,” said Dr. Clune. “This partnership with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, its board and the State of Louisiana is vitally important as we focus more of our resources on preserving the land and Cajun culture in the Bayou Region.”
In 2018, the legislature transferred responsibility for the Atchafalaya Basin Program from the Department of Natural Resources to the CPRA. The program as originally conceived was meant to direct the efforts of the state as the local sponsor for the US Army Corps of Engineers Atchafalaya Floodway project. The Basin Program has a master plan that was approved in 1999, and activities have expanded to address the needs of both the resources and the resource users of the Atchafalaya Basin. Now that the Program has been transferred, CPRA is committed to continue the important work benefitting the Basin while tying this Program into the state’s larger coastal efforts.
Bren Haase, Executive Director of the CPRA, “As an agency, we look forward to always improving our knowledge of conditions in the coastal basins and to developing technologies, models, and methods to aid in the implementation of CPRA projects, particularly in this part of the coast.”
“Nicholls State University, more so then any other University in our state, serves the people and collegiate student population of the Atchafalaya and Terrebonne Basins, as well as the river parishes.” said Nicholls Alum and State Senator, Norby Chabert, “It is the ideal location and partnership for this important initiative."
“The Atchafalaya Basin is the most diverse estuary in Louisiana and is the largest block of floodplain forest in the United States. Having a working model of the Atchafalaya near its home at Nicholls State University will be invaluable to the protection and restoration of South Louisiana” said Senator Bret Allain.