BREAKING NEWS: Biden OKs emergency declaration in Louisiana for saltwater intrusion


President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. today declared that an emergency exists in the State of Louisiana and ordered Federal assistance to supplement State and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from the seawater intrusion beginning on September 20, 2023, and continuing.

The White House photo

The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the parishes of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. 

Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program limited to temporary measures that address reduced water treatment capability due to saltwater intrusion resulting from low water levels of the Mississippi River will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding for no more than 90 days from the date of declaration.

At the moment, USACE is working on several big-ticket solutions to the saltwater intrusion.

It’s making an underwater sill, or levee, located about 10 miles downstream from Belle Chasse around 25 feet taller to slow the saltwater’s advance.

It also announced last week that it plans to barge and distribute up to 36 million gallons of freshwater a day to treatment facilities downstream that have been overwhelmed with salt.

“With regards to the sill construction, the dredging contract has been awarded and those funds are obligated,” Ricky Boyett, USACE spokesperson told CNN, and the water barging is being funded with disaster funds that are already obligated to the Corps.

“From our perspective, our district – we’re a civil works district – and the majority of our projects are funded by project, we get appropriations for it,” Boyett said. “So we’re not seeing impacts immediately.”