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Public Statements

Hearing Of The Subcommittee On Water Resources And Environment Of The House Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure - "Proposals For A Water Resources Development Act Of 2010"

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Thank you Chairwoman Johnson, Ranking Member Boozman, and Members of the
Subcommittee for allowing me the opportunity to address the subcommittee today and for moving
forward on a WRDA bill for 2010. I appreciate the commitment by your committee to move this
important legislation forward.

I represent Louisiana's First Congressional District, which encompasses all or parts of 6
parishes in the Greater New Orleans area, including Jefferson, Orleans, St. Charles, St. Tammany,
Tangipahoa, and Washington Parishes.

Southeast Louisiana has faced many challenges since the destruction caused by Hurricane
Katrina's storm surge and the failure of the federal levees in the New Orleans region. While major
investments have been made to the infrastructure in our region--and I thank this subcommittee for
your work on the 2007 WRDA bill--much of our region remains completely unprotected from
hurricane storm surge and the Corps continues to ignore their own reports that have identified the
best options for pursuing the strongest level of protection for the people--and also the national
assets--in Southeast Louisiana.

To illustrate this point, I would like to offer just a few examples and would like to ask for
unanimous consent to submit a more detailed statement for the record.
Lake Pontchartrain Barrier Plan & "Category 5" Hurricane Protection

The Corps has told our delegation that the "Category 5" report, titled the "Louisiana Coastal
Protection and Restoration" study, will be released this December. Not only is this report long
overdue, but when it is finally released, we are being told it will not include specific project
recommendations for this Committee and this Congress to move forward on. While the report will
not list project recommendations as was intended by Congress when it was authorized, one key
alternative that should be presented in the report provides an option for a Lake Pontchartrain Barrier
Plan, which would provide storm surge protection to residents on both the north and south shores of
Lake Pontchartrain. It is critical to note here that this project would provide much-needed protection
to St. Tammany Parish on the north shore, which currently has no protection whatsoever from
hurricane storm surge entering Lake Pontchartrain.

In the wake of Hurricane Betsy over 40 years ago, Congress authorized a similar hurricane
protection project that proposed locks at Chef Pass and the Rigolets to prevent storm surge from
entering the Lake. Barriers in these locations, which again, would protect both the north and south
shores of the Lake, could have prevented the massive breaches in the federal levees that left much
of my district and the City of New Orleans inundated.

We must revisit the feasibility of building storm surge barriers at the Rigolets and Chef Pass
to provide the strongest level of protection to the people and businesses on both the north and south
shores of the Lake.
Outfall Canals

While the project I just described was halted not by the Corps but by outside radical
environmental interest groups in the 1970's, we continue to wrangle with the Corps on various
projects in my region at both the study level and the construction level.

For example, despite Congressional intent and direction to modify the 3 outfall canals in
Jefferson and Orleans Parish, the Corps continues to proceed with an option, called "Option 1,"
which does not provide the best level of hurricane protection for the people on the south shore of
Lake Pontchartrain. The Corps has noted in its own report to Congress that two different options,
Options 2 and 2a (which includes a plan to pump flood waters to the Mississippi River instead of
Lake Pontchartrain) are more reliable options for hurricane and flood protection.

There are also a number of projects, in addition to this one, in which the Corps continues to
delay critical reports and studies authorized by Congress. As we work toward this next WRDA bill,
I look forward to working with you all to expedite these studies and reports, address critical cost
share issues and improve and secure our nation's key federal navigable waterways in South
Louisiana.
Coastal Restoration

One final thing I would like to note is the importance to our country of coastal protection
and restoration. A crucial component of comprehensive hurricane protection is rebuilding and
restoring our coastline. Coastal erosion in Louisiana has reached catastrophic levels. Louisiana loses
approximately 24 square miles of coastal wetlands each year, and the projected loss over the next 50
years, with current restoration efforts taken into account, is estimated to be approximately 500
square miles. More than 47% of Louisiana's population lives in Louisiana's coastal parishes.

Not only are our wetlands important to Louisiana and the Gulf Coast; these wetlands also
protect infrastructure of national significance. Five of the largest ports in the U.S. are located in
South Louisiana, and our coastal wetlands provide storm protection for over 450 million tons of
waterborne commerce carried through these ports, accounting for about 18% of all waterborne
commerce in the U.S. About one-third of all U.S. oil and gas production comes across the coast of
Louisiana, and we provide 26% (by weight) of the commercial fish landings in the lower 48 states.

In 2006, Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to dedicate
the state's share of offshore oil and gas revenues to hurricane protection and coastal restoration
projects. Our state has made this commitment, but in order to protect these invaluable national
resources, the federal government must join us in our efforts to make meaningful investments in
coastal restoration.

I look forward to working with your committee on these projects as a WRDA bill is drafted
for 2010, and again, I appreciate the opportunity to speak before the committee today.


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