USA: Big Step Forward for Louisiana’s Waterways
U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., announced that the bill to fund the government for fiscal year 2014 includes critical funding for flood control, dredging and other major Corps of Engineers maintenance priorities for Louisiana’s waterways, including the Mississippi River.
The bill eliminates the automatic spending cut—known as the sequester—that arbitrarily cut programs and resources to Louisiana communities and harmed important Louisiana priorities. The bill provides $5.46 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, an increase of $748 million above the fiscal year 2013 sequester level and $791 million more than was approved by the House.
The funding for the Corps includes $125 million for General Investigations, $1.65 billion for construction, $2.86 billion for operations and maintenance receives, and $307 million for the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Sen. Landrieu, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Chair of its Subcommittee on Homeland Security, believes the funding is still insufficient, and will continue to push for increased funds for the region.
“This money supports projects that maintain our waterways, provide flood protection and help keep commerce moving smoothly though our region. While these funds are incredibly important, they are still not enough to truly meet our needs,” Sen. Landrieu said. “The Corps’ construction budget continues to be slashed. In 2008, it was $2.2 billion; today, it is $1.6 billion. There is a $60 billion backlog of authorized projects, and I will continue pushing to provide increased funding for the completion of these critical infrastructure investments in Louisiana and throughout the nation. The money we spend today on the operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of essential water infrastructure will save taxpayers money in the future.”
The Modified Charleston Method has placed onerous mitigation requirements on essential flood protection infrastructure projects like Morganza to the Gulf, arbitrarily raising costs of these critical projects. To address this, Sen. Landrieu authored language that is included in this bill that will require the Corps to report within 90 days on how they calculate mitigation requirements and propose alternative mitigation options and other strategies that are more realistic and better align the mitigation costs with the true environmental impacts.
“The Modified Charleston method is unnecessarily raising mitigation costs and preventing us building critical flood protection projects. If the Army Corps doesn’t implement this in a smarter, more strategic manner, it will be simply impossible for coastal Louisiana communities to build the basic flood protection infrastructure we need to continue living where we need to work to keep producing energy and manufacturing the goods necessary for continued economic growth,” said Sen. Landrieu.
The bill also includes language consistent with the Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) to use $1 billion, $100 million more than proposed by the President’s budget, from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to cover operations and maintenance and other eligible expenditures on the nation’s waterways.
”As gateways to domestic and international trade, Louisiana’s ports and harbors are vital to the country’s global competitiveness and American jobs,” Sen. Landrieu said. “Our ports and harbors drive industries and supports the delivery of products through the entire country. Louisiana’s port system is the largest in the world, and the critical federal waterways that serve our ports must be adequately maintained.”
Press Release, January 22, 2014