News

Key votes on local levees pending

By:  Kelly Connelly, HoumaToday.com

January 25, 2014

http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20140125/ARTICLES/140129643/0/search

 

BATON ROUGE — Key action is expected as early as next week that will help determine whether Terrebonne’s hurricane protection system advances as a federal project.

Authorization for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee system was included in the Senate’s version of the Water Resources Development Act in May, but it is absent from the version approved by the House in October.

Lawmakers say they expect a congressional committee charged with ironing out the differences between the two versions of the bill to complete its work by month’s end.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., a member of the conference committee, said he is pushing to include authorization for Morganza in the revised measure the panel sends to the House and Senate for a final vote.

“We have the opportunity to reform the Corps of Engineers, streamline flood protection projects, finally get Morganza moving and improve our waterways and infrastructure all in one bill,” Vitter said when the bill passed the Senate.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has threatened to filibuster to block any WRDA bill that fails to include Morganza. That would hold up the billions of dollars of other water-related projects the measure contains across the country.

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, has also pushed to include Morganza in the final version of the water bill.

Opponents in Congress have balked at Morganza’s price tag, estimated by the corps at $10 billion.

The Terrebonne Levee Board, frustrated by years of delays by Congress and the corps, has worked for several years to construct an interim levee system using local and state tax money. The district has spent about $250 million so far on the 10- to 12-foot levees and associated floodgates, constructing them along the same route planned by the corps. The district hopes that once federal money is approved, the corps can upgrade the levees to protect against stronger hurricanes and storm surge.

Even if the conference committee recommends, and Congress approves, authorization for Morganza, separate votes would be required on whether the project will receive federal money.

Capitol Correspondent Kelly Connelly can be reached at KC@LaPolitics.com.

 

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