Black's coming back, Boasso makes it official and more
BLACK'S ON THE WAY BACK

Blake White doesn't have much of a track record in the restaurant business. The 27-year-old was an insurance inspector up until last month, when he put a deposit down to buy Black's Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar. Bryan Bourque, second generation owner of the famous oyster restaurant, says he will be happy to see the restaurant reopen once the act of sale goes through. "This came out of nowhere," Bourque says. "One Thursday this guy calls, and I met with him the next day. His daddy gave me a deposit to take it off the market over the weekend. Monday, they called and said there were ready to roll. That was January 8th."

White, who lives on Cow Island, says his main experience with restaurants is that he ate at Black's three times a week up until Sept. 1, when the venerable Abbeville institution shut its doors. His plans are to follow in Bourque's footsteps, keeping the traditional menu of raw, boiled and fried seafood dishes, gumbos, etouffees and "some new dishes still in the making." White plans to have the doors to the 16,000-square-foot restaurant and bar re-opened some time between the end of February and mid-March. "We're going to do it, the whole nine yards," White says. "I love a challenge." ' Mary Tutwiler

MASTER PLAN FOR COAST COMING

A second draft of a new master plan for coastal restoration and hurricane protection is scheduled to be released this week. The original version addressed a few controversial topics such as abandoning parts of lower Plaquemines Parish to bolster more northerly areas, closing the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet shipping channel near New Orleans and establishing floodgates and dikes in relation to Borgne and Pontchartrain lakes. Chris Macaluso, a spokesperson for the Governor's Office of Coastal Activities, says most of the plan's major sections are still in course. "I wouldn't expect too many significant changes," he says.

Similar strategies for recovery and protection have been released by the state in the past, but the intent of this new master plan is to pull all efforts ' levees, freshwater diversions, dikes, locks, floodgates and other mechanisms ' under one umbrella. The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has been leading the effort ever since Katrina and Rita devastated the shoreline, working alongside a team of scientists, parish government officials, federal researchers and others. Three public meetings will be held throughout south Louisiana in coming weeks, then the plan will undergo legislative debate this spring. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will make its review and, finally, it will be included in the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Plan, which Congress will vote on possibly later this year. ' Jeremy Alford

LAWMAKERS SCRAMBLE FOR ROAD MONEY

Potholes are bad all over, access issues are plaguing economic development, and there's an election coming up. Throw a huge surplus of money into the cement mixer and there's no wonder why lawmakers are scrambling for road money. The state has $827 million in budget surplus dollars from the second half of last year, and Rep. Mike Walsworth, a Republican from West Monroe, wants to dedicate $400 million to roads and $50 million to ports. It's all part of a plan he'll introduce during the spring regular session, and it calls for an additional $200 million to go to roads from the anticipated surplus from the current year. Walsworth says the noise from his district is deafening.

"You don't need a national report to tell you our roads need massive help," he says. On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Reggie Dupre, a Democrat from Bourg, is hoping to cash in on the state's recent cash-flow boom by dedicating half of the excess mineral revenues that are usually deposited into the general fund to construction of roads and coastal protections. The state Constitution currently dedicates the first $850 million of state mineral revenue in various ways, and anything above that threshold is placed in the state's Rainy Day Fund. Once that fund is full, Dupre's legislation proposes to move 50 percent of the remaining dollars into his construction program. Even though state mineral production has been declining in recent years, the state has continued to enjoy hefty profits because of record oil prices in 2006 ' a formula that may be prompting lawmakers to hedge their bets too wildly, Dupre says. The excess mineral revenues identified in the legislation are currently treated as recurring revenue, Dupre adds, meaning money that is expected to be in the budget every year. "It would be much wiser for us to reinvest some of this excess revenue into Louisiana's infrastructure needs," he says. ' JA

BOASSO MAKES IT OFFICIAL

Monday's statement from Republican state Sen. Walter Boasso of Arabi couldn't have been more direct. "The state is a mess and somebody has got to clean it up," he said. "I've decided I'm the one to do it."

With that, Boasso officially announced his candidacy for governor. He joins Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal and Libertarian candidate T. Lee Horne III as challengers to Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The rumor mill for other potential candidates keeps churning out a trio of Democrats: Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhard, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon. ' Scott Jordan

HOW WAS THE UNIVERSE CREATED?

If you're geeking out for some great computer-science news, Louisiana has leaped most other Southern states to secure a site on the Open Science Grid, a global consortium of universities and laboratories connected via the Internet. Through LSU and Louisiana Tech, the state's computing ability has skyrocketed and its researchers are participating in one of the most advanced and fastest growing grid environments in the world. The concept is simple: By connecting with computer stations in Germany, Chicago or elsewhere, Louisiana can tap into the network and share its resources, meaning everything from computing power to actual research from other teams. For instance, Dick Greenwood, a physics professor at Louisiana Tech, is working on something dubbed ATLAS, a next-generation physics project based in Switzerland. As its title suggests, this is a lofty one. Scientists from all over the world are working together to conduct research on the fundamental nature of matter, with the goal of providing more insight into the creation of the universe. ' JA

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