Water Campus lining up funding sources, director says

Water Campus lining up funding sources, director says




The state's premier water researchers are a step closer to moving into their new home at the massive Water Campus downtown development, Chip Groat, director of The Water Institute of the Gulf, told the Baton Rouge Press Club this afternoon. Construction on the complex's first building, which will house LSU's working model of the lower Mississippi River, is slated to begin later this year. Two buildings with offices for the institute and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will get underway next year. Together, the three buildings will carry a nearly $50 million price tag, to be paid for, in part, by the state's various coastal funds. But the institute can give back, Groat said. The institute aims to be a part of a new economic sector that exports coastal knowledge. It already has partnerships with similar organizations that study the Mekong delta in Vietnam and coastal Netherlands. The institute is also preparing for an infusion of funding thanks to Clean Water Act fines resulting from the $1 billion Transocean settlement after the 2010 BP oil spill. According to the RESTORE Act, federal legislation that governs how settlement money is to be allocated, 2.5% of money going to states is to be spent on research institutions. Along with collaborating universities, the Water Institute is clearly set to receive Louisiana's portion of those funds. As for other sources of revenue, Groat said his organization hasn't been accused of being influenced by outside contributors and will maintain its standard of scientific independence. Researchers that produce work on the state's controversial diversion projects that would reroute sediment and water from the Mississippi River into the state's wetlands will have "no dog in the fight," according to Groat. Plus researchers won't be allowed to take part in any diversion design work with the state for two years after their work with the institute is complete. For more on the Water Campus, read a Business Report cover story from December. —Kelly Connelly



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