Congress approves, the money comes and needs are met. Louisiana is getting a boost and some needed projects will be built, not the least the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane levee system near Houma will be completed.
Louisiana will get $2.7 billion for several dozen levee, flood control and other infrastructure projects, including major funding to help complete the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane levee system around Houma and to elevate several hundred homes in southwest Louisiana, federal officials said Wednesday. The money comes from two recent funding bills approved by Congress, the Hurricane Ida Disaster Supplemental Appropriations bill approved in September and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved in November, both of which initially received mostly lukewarm receptions from Louisiana’s majority Republican congressional delegation.nola.com
Half of our congressional delegation supported the bill but I am sure the half that did not will crow over the money as it is spent.
The disaster funding bill was eventually supported by U.S. Reps. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, Clay Higgins, R-Lafayette, and Julia Letlow, R-Monroe, as well as Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, the lone Democrat in the state delegation, in the House and by both U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy in the Senate. That bill was opposed by Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, and Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, in the House. On the infrastructure bill, the lone Republican supporter from Louisiana was Cassidy, who helped broker its passage as a bipartisan bill in the Senate. In the House, only Carter supported the bill on final passage. But all those “no” votes didn’t stop many of of those same members of Congress from hailing the influx of cash. Scalise, who as the No. 2 Republican in the House helped whip GOP members to vote against both bills, touted the federal spending in a news release Wednesday. “After Louisiana suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Ida, I am pleased to see the Corps include over $1 billion for projects in Louisiana’s First Congressional District,” he said. “As our state’s recovery continues, I am committed to pushing the Corps to ensure South Louisiana has the resources necessary to restore and improve protection for our citizens and communities.” Scalise’s news release did not mention he helped line up opposition to the vote.
Chutzpah of the first order. This goes back to Bob Marshall who asked why we vote for those who hurt us. But we continue to do so.
When asked why Scalise issued a release praising the funding that resulted from the bill he opposed last year, his spokesman Hunter Lovell pointed out that the Louisiana money was only a small part of a vastly larger bill that Scalise voted against because of its potential effects on the budget. “The federal funding released today builds on years of work by Congressman Scalise on these flood protection projects,” Lovell said in an email response. “Congressman Scalise, along with Congressman Garret Graves, secured the language in a House bill that allowed the Morganza-to-the-Gulf project to receive federal construction funding for the first time in its history.”
This is why you vote for many bills so you always have cover! This is not the only money now available.
The announcement of the new money streams came on the same day that the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority unveiled its 2023 annual budget, which calls for spending $1.3 billion over 12 months beginning July 1. The plan includes work on 144 projects statewide, including $1 billion to be spent on construction of 76 projects. Authority chairman Chip Kline said during Wednesday’s meeting that the state plan’s totals would likely rise because of the federal funds announcement, since many of the projects will require state matching funds. But the matching money for several larger projects was already built into the plan, he said. “We’re going to be spending the rest of the afternoon trying to get our head around exactly what this means,” Kline said. The $378.5 million from the infrastructure bill for the Morganza levee system follows much smaller appropriations of $12.5 million in 2020 and $19 million in 2021. It represents the largest federal contribution thus far towards completing the $3 billion, 92-mile levee system. The state and Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes already have contributed more than $1 billion towards the levee system’s construction, and their contributions will be used to meet the state’s required 35% match for federal dollars for the project, officials said.
There is a lot of projects the money will cover and flood gates are some.
This new money will pay for the revamp of several floodgates, as officials continue to build out a system designed to protect interior areas from hurricane storm surges that have a 1% chance of occurring in any year. Those include the Minors Canal Floodgate, Humble Canal Floodgate, and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway East and West floodgates. The Lockport to Larose levee reach and the Reach A South levee will also be redone. Meanwhile, the Southwest Coastal Louisiana Hurricane Protection project will get $125 million to elevate structures in the current 25-year floodplain in Calcasieu, Cameron and Vermilion parishes. This is the first federal contribution to the Southwest Coastal program, which is aimed at reducing flooding problems and restoring wetlands in areas south of Lake Charles. The Corps will get $783 million to elevate hurricane levees in Plaquemines Parish to levels able to withstand overtopping from storm surges with a 2% chance of occurring in any year, a so-called 50-year storm. Hurricane levees to the north of this stretch of levees are built to the 100-year level of protection. The West Shore Lake Pontchartrain levee system will receive an additional $453 million from the disaster relief bill to apply lessons learned from Hurricane Ida’s flooding of St. John the Baptist and other parishes to upgrade its design. The levee project, barely under way, already has received $760 million in federal funds that was supposed to cover completing its construction by the end of 2025.
The Corps is on top of this and has other projects to add.
Once the Corps completes a “general reevaluation report” on the levee’s design, the additional money is expected to be used for additional armoring and improving pump stations that are part of the project, a Corps spokesman said. Construction of the levee has been delayed by a legal challenge to the Pontchartrain Levee District’s expropriation of 364 acres of land owned by Nature Land Co. LLC, a company owned by a former judge and a prominent New Orleans developer. The landowner company dropped its final challenge to the expropriation on Tuesday, state officials said, clearing the way for the Corps to enter the property. “I’m dancing in my seat!” exclaimed Monica Salins Gorman, executive director of the levee district, during Wednesday’s meeting of the coastal authority, as authority chairman Chip Kline notified authority members of both the additional money for the levee and the legal settlement.
Some of the other funded projects are listed.
Other funded projects include: $162.6 million for improvements to the Atchafalaya Basin floodway, $9.9 million to repair levee slides at two Atchafalaya Basin locations, and for dredging of a shoaling area in the basin near Morgan City, $10 million to build the Bayou Sale East-West tie-in, $94.3 million to design and partially build drainage projects in Algiers and$402 million for repairs to Mississippi River levees and channels throughout the state. Some disaster money could help elevate New Orleans-area levees, according to corps officials, but it’s unclear yet how much. Officials are waiting to learn just how much those elevations will cost, according to a list of projects released Wednesday. The Corps has proposed spending $3 billion over 50 years to keep the levees elevated to the 100-year surge protection level, with the first construction lifts to begin in 2028. The Corps list also includes $798,000 in disaster funds to begin work repairing levees on Grand Isle damaged during Hurricane Zeta in 2020. It also includes a separate entry for undetermined funds for additional repairs to the island’s levees resulting from damage during Hurricane Ida in August. The list also includes $3 million to conduct a study of the island’s levee system, something the CPRA has requested in the aftermath of Ida to determine better ways of dealing with hurricane surge damage.
A lot of money but a lot of needed and useful projects.