State program seeks ideas on improving coastal projects

A new state program will collect innovative ideas to improve the results, lower the cost and reduce the amount of time it takes to build projects included in the state master plan for coastal restoration and protection.

The Coastal Innovation Partnership Program’s first round of applications will be accepted from March 1 through March 22 with a one-page application that will be available at http://www.thewaterinstitute.org/innovation starting March 1, said Natalie Peyronnin, senior scientist with the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

The program is a partnership between the authority and The Water Institute of the Gulf, a nonprofit organization that will manage the collection of applications, review them and then present a report to the authority, Peyronnin told the state authority at its meeting Wednesday morning in Baton Rouge.

The program will be a more formal way to review ideas that get presented to the state and is a recognition that the state doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to coastal restoration and protection, she said.

“The goal of this innovation program is really to improve outcomes,” Peyronnin said.

In the short term, the focus will be on innovations that have been demonstrated or have research data available showing the effectiveness of the idea in moving the 2012 coastal master plan forward, she said.

In the long term, ideas that may be conceptual will be considered as well.

There’s currently no money to develop or test the ideas presented, but that is something that will be considered in the future. The process will put applicants in a better position for future projects and will provide applicants with feedback because many times people come to the state with ideas but don’t have enough information to prove their ideas’ effectiveness.

The application process will run twice a year, but the first report to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is expected to be presented in June. Peyronnin said it’s hard to tell whether more applications will come from individuals, universities, businesses or other groups.

“I think this has the potential to be a very important program,” said John Barry, authority board member.

Peyronnin said The Water Institute of the Gulf also will follow up and see how the reviewed ideas are worked into coastal restoration and protection projects outlined in the state master plan.