Morganza is on the Mississippi. It has a spillway. It also has a levee system that needs work and was not in the budget.

The Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District has asked Congress to add $28 million to the fiscal year 2024 federal budget to elevate part of the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane levee system to as high as 18 feet, after the Biden administration failed to include funds for the project in its proposed budget. District executive director Reggie Dupre Jr. made the request in March 9 letters to U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge; House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; and U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge. The money is being requested under a congressional “community project funding” provision, often called earmarks, that allows House and Senate members to submit proposals for their districts, which must be approved by Congress. In a statement responding to a query on why the levee district’s project wasn’t included in Biden’s budget, the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters pointed to more than $400 million the levee system has been provided in recent past budgets. “The Morganza-to-the-Gulf project was allocated $378 million in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law FY 2022 Work Plan and $31 million in the Army Civil Works Program FY 2023 Work Plan,” the statement said. “The project was not funded in the FY 2024 President’s Budget, but will continue to be considered for future funding along with other programs, projects, and activities competing for available federal resources across the nation.”

There will be work around Morganza but not on the levees.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law money will be used to design and build the Minors Canal Floodgate, Humble Canal Floodgate, Lockport to Larose levee reach, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway East and West floodgates, and the Reach A South levee. The 2023 funds will be used for the Bayou Terrebonne Floodgate and Highway 55 road gate design; Reach K levee and control structures design; and Reach L levee and control structure design. Dupre, whose request involves a 3.6-mile section of the system known as Reach F, said he also believed the additional money was not included in the president’s budget because several projects, including those funded through the infrastructure act, are not yet “shovel ready.” “The reason our request is for Reach F is that reach, along with the Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex, was listed as a ‘constructable feature’ in the original 2014 congressional authorization,” he said in an email response to questions.

The lack of funding is not a new experience for the parishes.

Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes and the state have struggled for years to get funding included in the federal budget for the 98-mile levee system, which was first authorized by Congress in 2000. It was reauthorized in 2014 because, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and other major storms, the Corps concluded that the heights of the levees and other structures needed to be significantly elevated. The system is being designed to protect from surges caused by storms that have a 1% chance of occurring in any year, the so-called 100-year storm. In its 2013 revised environmental study of the levee system, the Corps estimated it would cost $10.3 billion, but the state has estimated its cost at only $3.5 billion to $4.3 billion in its proposed 2023 coastal Master Plan update. The difference includes varying estimates on what the Corps believed would be the cost of clay needed to build large parts of the system and other cost-savings efforts the local levee districts and the state have used. Construction of the levee system actually began in 2006, using $18 million in state and local funds, the first of about $1 billion that has been spent on the system by the local levee districts and the state. “Our community has been taxing ourselves for over twenty years to build Morganza,” said Dupre in the letter requesting funding, referring to sales taxes dedicated to the system’s construction by the two parishes. The state has been using funds from state budget surpluses and offshore oil revenue.

Congress provided the funds for the 65% match in 2021.

Congress didn’t provide funds for its 65% share of the cost of the levee system until 2021, when President Donald Trump’s last budget included the first $12.5 million for the project. In 2022, the project received $19.3 million from the annual budget for additional design work, and the $378 million from the infrastructure law. The 2023 budget included the $31 million.

They have gotten money but 18 feet is a better barrier than they have now.

$28 Million asks for the Morganza to the Gulf levees