Importance of Louisiana’s Water Infrastructure Highlighted

The House of Representatives approved last week comprehensive water resources infrastructure legislation that addresses the needs of America’s harbors, locks, dams, flood protection and other water resources infrastructure.

The House passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act on a bipartisan basis by a vote of 360 to 61.

Commenting this, U.S. Senator David Vitter said: “While we were able to make major reforms in 2014, Louisiana’s water infrastructure continues to desperately need an overhaul and upgrade, which is why passing water resources legislation every two years is crucial.”

The water resources bill, which is on its way to the President’s desk to be signed into law, will help improve flood control, water infrastructure development and coastal hurricane protection throughout Louisiana.

As Chairman of the EPW Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Vitter included several provisions that will directly benefit Louisiana:

  • West Shore-Lake Pontchartrain, LA: Authorizes the $743.84 million project for hurricane and storm-damage risk reduction protection for residents outside the New Orleans Hurricane Protection System along the Interstate 10 corridor;
  • Calcasieu Lock: Authorizes reconstructing the aging Calcasieu Lock, ensuring safe, reliable transportation along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, one of the nation’s most vital shipping lanes;
  • Southwest Coastal Louisiana, LA: Authorizes the $3.16 billion project for hurricane storm surge damage reduction and ecosystem restoration for communities in Southwest Louisiana;
  • Mississippi River Ship Channel, Gulf to Baton Rouge, LA: Modification to the Port of New Orleans Project, Louisiana, increasing the allowable Federal maintenance between the approaches to the Port’s current and future container facilities and associated Harbor area, and the Mississippi River Ship Channel from the Gulf to Baton Rouge, Louisiana;
  • Expedited Competition of Authorized Projects-Flood Damage Reduction: Directs the Corps to expedite the completion of the Comite River Diversion and flood protection measures along the Amite River and Tributaries project in East Baton Rouge;
  • Harbor Deepening: Changes the cost-share for deepening waterways to 50-feet from the current 50/50 cost-share to 75% Fed and 25% non-fed to better the Mississippi River for post-Panamax vessels;
  • St. Tammany Parish: The Secretary shall conduct a study to determine the feasibility of carrying out projects described in the St. Tammany Parish Comprehensive Coastal Master Plan for flood control, shoreline protection, and ecosystem restoration in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana;
  • Pearl River: Deauthorizes the project for navigation, Pearl River, Mississippi and Louisiana, at the date of enactment of this act;
  • Red River Below Denison Dam: Deauthorizes the portion of the project for flood protection on Red River Below Denison Dam, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, is no longer authorized beginning on the date of enactment of this Act;
  • Non-Fed Interest Dredging Authority: Establishes a pilot program authorizing ports to get limited reimbursement for maintenance they perform using their own equipment on federal navigation channels to help clear the bureaucratic log jam in routine maintenance and operation of Louisiana waterways;
  • Beneficial Use of Dredged Materials: Provisions that increase the beneficial use of dredged material, which is critically important for the restoration of the coast – including the placement of dredged material in a location other than the least cost alternative. Allows use of dredged material from a non-Federal project, if obtained at non-Federal expense;
  • Wetlands Mitigation: Requires the Secretary to issue guidance regarding credits available from mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs and provides that mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs be considered reasonable alternatives;
  • Ouachita‐Black Rivers Navigation Program ‐ Bank Stabilization: Add bank stabilization as a project feature from mile 0 on the Black River, LA to mile 460 on the Ouachita River;
  • Discrete Segment: Authorizes the Corps to give credit or reimbursement for discrete segments of projects as they are completed;
  • Transfer of Excess Credit: Clarifies authority in WRRDA 2014 allowing the transfer of credit between projects;
  • Additional Measures at Donor Ports and Energy Transfer Ports: Extends the authority to provide additional funds for donor ports and energy transfer ports permanent. Also clarifies how payments are to be administered;
  • Completion of Ecosystem Restoration Projects: Amends the requirement for monitoring ecosystem restoration projects (from WRDA 2007) to allow operation and maintenance of the project to be concluded when the ecological success criteria are met;
  • Gulf Coast Oyster Bed Recovery Plan: Authorizes the Secretary to conduct a Gulf Coast Oyster Bed recovery assessment.