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Water Bill Puts La. Projects on Priority List

Louisiana's D.C. delegation praised their Senate colleagues Thursday following passage of a massive water bill. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act authorizes multiple Army Corps of Engineers projects in South Louisiana, including levees and a move to make the Mighty Mississippi even deeper.


The bill, which passed the Senate 91-7, will now head to President Barack Obama's desk for signature. The measure does not necessarily provide funding for the projects. Rather, the bill represents a Congressional priorities list of projects.


“This is a huge win for Louisiana that will provide significant coastal restoration, hurricane and flood protection, reforms to the Corps, accelerated projects, and of course, jobs,” said U.S. Sen David Vitter, who championed the Louisiana projects as the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “It’s easily one of the most important bills for Louisiana we’ll pass this year, and we got it done with a strong bipartisan and open process.”


Getting money to build the projects would require more legislation. The entire U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget is $4.6 billion for the whole country, but the Corps already has a backlog of $60 billion in projects. One Louisiana flood control project, a network of levees known as Morganza to the Gulf, carries a $10.3 billion price tag. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu made sure the project was included in the Senate bill after it was stripped from the House version, but acquiring federal dollars for the project appears to remain a long way off.


"It will take serious funding to make a $10.3 billion project like Morganza a reality," U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the President’s budget included an anemic $4.6 billion for the entire Army Corps of Engineers nationwide, the smallest percentage of the federal budget in the over 200 year history of the agency."


Officials hope to use BP money from the Restore Act and other oil royaly payments to cover some of the costs.


In addition to Morganza to the Gulf, the bill identifies the following projects:


  • Further upgrades to the 100-year Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System around New Orleans, including maintenance costs.
  • Deepening of the Mississippi River by 50 ft. to allow for increased traffic as a result of the Panama Canal expansion and other ongoing shipping infrastructure projects.
  • Louisiana Coastal Area Program, which includes the rebuilding of barrier islands Whiskey Island, Raccoon Island, Trinity Island and Timbalier Island off the coast of Terrebonne Parish.
  • The Barataria Basin Barrier Shoreline project, which restores marsh and seeks to reduce coastal land loss around Caminada Headland in Lafourche, Plaquemines and Jefferson Parishes.

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