Louisiana top coastal official resigns in final months of Edwards’ term
Louisiana’s top coastal restoration official declared his plans to resign during a speech at one of the state’s largest coastal conferences on Wednesday.
Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority chairman Chip Kline marks the latest of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ appointees to step down from their position as the Democratic governor’s term nears its close in January 2024.
Kline led the agency for more than five years as chairman of the board that oversees CPRA. Before he was appointed chairman, Kline had worked with the state’s coastal program for over 15 years in various capacities, including in the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities.
“Choosing to step down is not an easy decision, but it is the right one for me during this time in my life,” Kline told the crowd at the State of the Coast conference Wednesday afternoon. “I am someone who truly believes in the promise of south Louisiana. … It is with great pride that I can say I am leaving the coastal program better than I found it, a declaration I hope my successors can also make.”
Kline has overseen the unanimous passage of two Coastal Master Plans, the state’s 50-year, $50 billion roadmap for sustaining Louisiana’s coastline and building hard infrastructure like levees.
Under Kline, the state fast-tracked the federal review and approval of its first-ever Mississippi River sediment diversion in Plaquemines Parish. The massive $2.2 billion project has the greatest potential for long-term marsh building and maintenance, but it’s also the most contentious among local fishers and residents living outside flood protection.
CPRA also built its largest marsh and ridge restoration projects to date during Kline’s tenure. The agency celebrated the completion of the Spanish Pass Increment of the Barataria Basin Ridge and Marsh Creation Project in south Plaquemines last month. The project restored over six miles of ridge west of Venice and built over 1,670 acres of marsh.
“Chip has overseen some of the biggest coastal restoration projects in our state’s history despite the challenges of multiple natural disasters,” Edwards said Wednesday. “I want to thank Chip for his years of service to Louisiana and my administration. It has been an honor to work alongside him accomplishing projects that will endure for generations.”
Kline’s resignation will be effective July 3. In his place, CPRA executive director Bren Haase will take on the role of board chairman. Haase will be replaced by Greg Grandy, the agency’s deputy executive director.
“These two gentlemen have gained my complete admiration, respect and trust,” Kline said. “Louisiana and its coastal program deserve a leader who is guided by science and evidence, not by politics.”
Edwards echoed Kline in his own remarks at the conference, stressing the importance of maintaining the state’s progress on restoring the coast amid its ongoing land loss crisis and human-caused climate change.
There are seven candidates running to replace Edwards. Some of the Republican candidates haven’t committed to tackling the existential threat posed by climate change as the outgoing governor, despite overwhelming consensus among climate scientists.