U.S. Sen. David Vitter today sent a letter to President Obama raising concerns that the 100 year flood protection in Louisiana is incomplete. On Friday, September 9, the Obama Administration is scheduled to declare "Mission Accomplished" and commemorate the completion of the 100 year flood protection system, even though Tropical Storm Lee caused major flooding in parts of south Louisiana this past weekend due in part to portions of the levee system that have not been built. U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise (La.-1) and Jeff Landry (La.-3) signed on to Vitter's letter.
"After Hurricane Katina, Congress directed the Corps to complete the flood protection system in Louisiana by 2011. President Obama has committed to fully complete it, but today, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Lee, we're seeing the damage caused by their lack of action," Vitter said. "It's really misleading for the Obama administration to come to Louisiana and claim "Mission Accomplished' when in fact there are still real gaps and vulnerabilities."
A copy of Vitter's letter is below.
September 6, 2011
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
IMMEDIATE ATTENTION REQUESTED
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy
Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)
108 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0108
Major General Merdith "Bo" Temple
Acting Chief of Engineers
Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20314-1000
Dear President Obama, Secretary Darcy, and Major General Temple:
This Friday, September 9, 2011, the Obama Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the "Corps") will declare "Mission Accomplished" and commemorate the completion of the Greater New Orleans Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System. Following Hurricane Katrina, this system was authorized and funded by Congress to provide a 100-year level of protection to nearly a million residents and billions of dollars of property and economic infrastructure in southeast Louisiana.
This is historic and unprecedented work given its in size, scope, and sophistication. All of us in Louisiana appreciate the vital work of the Corps and all of its many fine men and women toward this end.
We write, however, to express real concern that this system is not in fact completed. First, there is major unfinished work in the New Orleans to Venice project which had been committed to at full federal expense, but which you are now walking away from. Second, there are incomplete projects in the overall system, some with temporary structures, which do not provide 100 year protection, and which therefore constitute real gaps and vulnerabilities.
New Orleans to Venice Project
In the aftermath of Katrina, there was a solid, clear commitment, first by the Bush Administration and then by candidate and President Obama, that the Corps would build the New Orleans to Venice Project, at full federal expense, as well as the non-federal levees in Plaquemines Parish that are being included in the project.
You have now walked away from this commitment. In February, the Corps announced that the project is not "economically justified" and that the state or parish must pay a 35 percent cost-share for the remaining cost to build the project. In addition, the administration has refused to put even its 65 percent federal cost share in its budget submission.
Because of this, this critical project stands only 10 percent complete with no realistic prospect of completion anytime soon. Also as a direct result of this, Tropical Storm Lee overtopped levees in Plaquemines Parish this week and caused significant flooding and damage.
This is a fundamental reversal of the President and the Corps' commitment to the people of Louisiana. Mr. President, please keep your word.
19 Incomplete/Temporary Projects in the Broader System
The following is a list of 19 projects in the broader Greater New Orleans system which are not at the 100-year level of protection as promised. Construction of these 19 projects will not be complete on Friday or will feature only temporary measures that will not provide the necessary 100-year level of protection.
We have received timelines for completion of these projects from the Corps leadership. We are willing to work with you in achieving that ultimate goal, which we hope we all share. However, the administration and the Corps cannot continue its long history of project delays and time slippages.
West Bank and Vicinity Projects
73, Western Tie-in Highway Crossing, St. Charles Parish
74, Western Tie-in Closure Structure across Bayou Verrett
75, Western Tie-in, BNSF Railroad Crossing
77, Western Tie-in, LA Hwy 18 Crossing and UP Railroad Gate
09b, Hero Canal to Oakville Structure
09c, Hero Canal to Oakville Hwy 23 Crossing
15a.2, Lake Cataouatche PS to Segnette State Park Phase 2
16b, Segnette PS Fronting Protection and Modifications
16.2, Bayou Segnette Complex
Mississippi River Levees
1.1, Oak Point to Oakville
3.1, Belle Chasse to Oak Point
4.1, English Turn Bend to Belle Chasse
6.1, Parish Line to English Turn Bend
7.1, West Crossover Point to Parish Line
Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Projects
03.2A, West Return Floodwall (Southern Segment) Phase 2
03.2B, West Return Floodwall (Northern Segment) Phase 2
9.2, Pump Stations Modifications, fronting protection and floodwall tie-ins
17.2, Bridge abutment and Floodwall Tie-ins at Causeway
3d.2, Airport Runway 10 Levee Phase 2
As we all know, a hurricane protection system is only as strong as its weakest link. Because of the above weak links, this overall system does not yet provide the 100-year level of protection promised. If the above 19 projects are not built to the 100-year level of protection in an expeditious way using permanent structures, we are destined to repeat the mistakes that led to the catastrophic results following Hurricane Katrina.
United States Senator
Member of Congress
Member of Congress