Louisiana, BR-area projects advance as committee passes Corps construction bill
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure today advanced a new version of the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA), legislation that authorizes funding and work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The bill included many projects critical to Louisiana and the Baton Rouge area that were championed by U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, who serves as ranking member of the Water Resources subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the Corps.
Highest at stake in the bill - if passed, the first WRDA legislation in seven years - for post-Katrina and Rita Louisiana, is authorization of $1.2 billion in funding and Corps work on numerous coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects in the Louisiana Coastal Area, as well as $886.7 million for hurricane and flood protection projects for the Atchafalaya Basin from Morganza to the Gulf.
"This committee has again produced a worthy product deserving expeditious enactment. Since the last WRDA in 2000, America has experienced devastating floods, catastrophic hurricanes, enormous coastal loss, and serious impediments to navigation. It is worth asking how much of this could have been mitigated had we passed WRDA bills in 2002, 2004, and 2006," said Baker. "I'm pleased with the Committee's action, particularly the improvements to Louisiana coastal restoration, and urge the House and Senate to act as quickly as possible."
New Baton Rouge-area projects included in a manager's amendment that passed today:
St. Francisville Drainage: Authorizes the Corps to initiate improvements for flood-prone areas of the town.
False River: Expedites Corps work to address the siltation problem harming this vital Pointe Coupee Parish lake.
Intracoastal Waterway Stream Bank Restoration: Directs the Corps to address severe erosion problems on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near the Bayou Sorrel Lock in Iberville Parish.
Louisiana and Baton Rouge area projects in the committee-passed WRDA bill include:
Louisiana Coastal Area: Authorizes $1.2 billion, which represents the largest coastal restoration project in American history.
Morganza to Gulf: Authorizes the $886.7 million project for the area between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers from the Morganza Floodway in Pointe Coupee Parish to the Gulf Coast and including the watershed area that makes up most of Acadiana. Project authorizes the Corps to conduct massive, extensive flood and hurricane protection; wetlands, natural resource, wildlife habitat, ecosystem conservation; and to help facilitate recreational, commercial, and sportsman activities.
East Baton Rouge Riverfront: Expands a 1998 authorization for the Corps' riverfront work in West Baton Rouge Parish now to include East Baton Rouge Parish and West Feliciana Parish.
University/City Park Lakes: Authorizes the Corps to expedite this dredging and ecosystem restoration project.
East Baton Rouge Parish Flood Control: Authorizes a new, higher level of $178 million. The bill language also changes the federal cost share from 65/35 to 75/25, saving the parish nearly $20 million.
Bayou Sorrel Lock: Authorization to reconstruct the $100 million lock in Iberville Parish, a critical choke point for the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
Bayou Plaquemine: Saves the city of Plaquemine $400,000 toward this $2 million project that provides environmental enhancement of Bayou Plaquemine by increasing the dissolved oxygen and lowering the temperature of bayou waters which are currently experiencing habitat degradation.
Watershed Management programs: Provides technical, planning, and design assistance to non-federal interests for carrying out watershed management, restoration, and development projects at the Amite River Basin and East Atchafalaya River.
Flood mitigation priority areas: Provides technical, planning, and design assistance to non-federal interests for carrying out flood mitigation, restoration, and development projects in Ascension, EBR, Iberville, Livingston, and Pointe Coupee parishes. Here the Corps is authorized to conduct projects that reduce flooding while trying to restore rivers to their natural condition.
EBR, Livingston, and Ascension parish wastewater - Increases authorized funding level from $20 million to $35 million.
Plaquemine sanitary, sewer and wastewater infrastructure improvements: Authorizes funding level of $7 million.
Hypoxia: Authorizes the Corps to begin working with other federal, state, and other agencies to address the hypoxia situation in the Gulf of Mexico.