Ground Broken On New Water Institute In Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Officials have broken ground on a three-story research and conference center dedicated to water studies.

         On Friday, Gov. Bobby Jindal and other officials held the groundbreaking ceremony for the $22.4 million Water Institute of the Gulf Research and Conference Center. The building will house the Water Institute of the Gulf.

         The Water Institute was set up four years ago with state support to study coastal restoration in Louisiana.

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         The building is part of a bigger campus — a 35-acre Water Campus — dedicated to water issues. New facilities are under construction — the headquarters of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the LSU Center for River Studies.

         The campus is on the Mississippi River near downtown Baton Rouge. The new building is expected to be open by 2017.

         The Advocate’s Amy Wold reports that during the groundbreaking ceremony officials called the new facility a beautiful new building that will jut out over the Mississippi River.

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         Jindal also called it "a celebration of the world-class research being done here in Baton Rouge."

         As Louisiana continues to lose coastal land, the state has increased yearly spending on restoration and protection from about $75 million 10 years ago to an average of $600 million a year now, Jindal said.

         "But we have to sustain that work," he said.

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         In addition to being a research facility, the new building extending over the river will include a deck open to the public.

         Planners envision the campus over the next 10 years will include commercial offices, retail, restaurant and even residential buildings.

         The campus is the result of cooperation among the state, city, Baton Rouge Area Foundation, LSU and other entities.

         The institute building will be three stories with offices located on the first two floors and with meeting rooms on the third floor to be used by the institute and other groups.

         The institute building is being paid for with $10 million from the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and $12.4 million in state capital outlay funds.

         The Water Institute of the Gulf has 45 employees, but that is expected to grow to 55 by the time the building is ready in summer or fall of 2017, said Chip Groat, president and CEO of the institute.

         That number of employees is expected to grow to 80 in the next five years as the institute branches out its work, and funding opportunities, beyond the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, officials said.

         That expansion of mission has already begun with the institute working on potential projects in Vietnam, Latin America and Egypt, Groat said.

         Formed in February 2012, the Water Institute of the Gulf is to receive a portion of Restore Act money as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. About $4 million of that money will be available soon, and then the institute will receive $22 million over the next 15 years, about $1.45 million a year.

         For more information



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