The U.S. Senate today accepted an amendment authored by U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) that will give Mississippi an important role in a proposed levee project that could result in new flood threats to the Mississippi Gulf Coast if not carefully studied with input from affected parties.
The Cochran amendment was incorporated into a package of amendments added to the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (S.601 or WRDA) on Tuesday. It is the end product of three amendments introduced by Cochran last week.
The modified Cochran amendment clarifies that a section of the bill related to Gulf Coast flood protection does not authorize construction or program assistance for a flood control barrier across the Lake Pontchartrain land bridge, and that any study to advance such a project must include the consultation and approval of the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana.
"The amendment ensures that Governor Bryant will have a seat at the table if and when projects that could affect Mississippi are considered. It will give Mississippians a role in guaranteeing that a flood control project built by our neighbors won't inadvertently increase flood risk on our side of the border," Cochran said.
Cochran, who serves on the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds the Army Corps of Engineers, expressed his appreciation to Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and David Vitter (R-La.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, for working with him to reach a consensus on his amendment.
"We needed to clearly address the flood and storm surge risks that projects in Louisiana would have on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Senator Vitter has helped manage this bill in a professional manner and has protected his interests, but he understands that Mississippi has a role to play going forward," Cochran said.
Last week, the senior Senator from Mississippi introduced three amendments to WRDA that dealt with the prospect of unintended flooding in Mississippi caused by new flood protection structures built in Louisiana. (http://1.usa.gov/190lL4o)
The text of the approved Cochran amendment to Section 3018 of S.601 states:
* "Nothing in this section or amendment made by this section constitutes an authorization to construct a project or program associated with a storm surge barrier across the Lake Pontchartrain land bridge (including Chef Menteur Pass and the Rigolets) that would result in unmitigated induced flooding in coastal communities within the State of Mississippi," and that
* "Any study to advance a project described in paragraph (1) that is conducted under the General Investigations Account of the Corps of Engineers shall include consultation and approval of the Governors of the States of Louisiana and Mississippi."
The Senate on Wednesday is expected to complete debate on WRDA, which is the federal law that authorizes Army Corps of Engineers water conservation and development projects throughout the country.