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THIBODAUX, La. — Today, Nicholls State University, Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the CPRA Board announced their intent to create a coastal center on the Nicholls campus to study the effects of land loss in the Terrebonne and Atchafalaya Basins.
Gov. Edwards and Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune signed the memorandum of understanding at a press conference in Baton Rouge.
“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. Jay Clune, Nicholls President. “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.”
Louisiana loses a football field of coastal islands and wetlands every 100 minutes and has experienced more coastal land loss than any other state in the nation since 1930 with more than 1,800 square miles turned to open water.
The Terrebonne Basin has the highest rate of coastal land loss in the state with more than 30,000 acres of wetlands lost since 1932. Meanwhile, the Atchafalaya Basin gained 4,000 acres of wetlands while every other basin in the state has lost land.
“This is the beginning of a partnership where we can focus our attention on the Atchafalaya River and its needs; and the potential for it to be a restoration tool for the Terrebonne Basin,” said Gov. 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.”
The coastal center will be similar to the Center for River Studies on the Water Campus in Baton Rouge, allowing Nicholls to become a leader in restoration research, education and outreach. Projects, models and displays of the Atchafalaya River and the two basins will be housed at the center.
The CPRA assumed responsibility for the Atchafalaya Basin Program from the Department of Natural Resources last year and has incorporated plans for the basin into the state’s larger coastal master plan.
“Partnerships such as this are a necessary and beneficial aspect of the business of coastal management in Louisiana,” said Chip Kline, executive assistant to the governor for coastal activities and chairman of the CPRA board. “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 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.
Last week, Nicholls announced a partnership with the University of New Orleans, allowing students to easily transfer to UNO to earn a civil engineering degree, and UNO students to transfer to Nicholls to work toward a professional land surveying certification. In October, Nicholls signed a research-based collaborative agreement with the Water Institute of the Gulf. Combined with today’s announcement, Dr. Clune believes that Nicholls has positioned itself as a leader in present and future coastal restoration efforts.
“We are excited about the possibilities that come with a coastal center, including the development of a coastal engineering program that will keep our students here to help us save our coast, instead of having to go somewhere else out of state,” Dr. Clune said