Lobbyists push Congress for Morganza-to-the-Gulf project

March 30, 2013

Lobbyists for Terrebonne’s Morganza-to-the-Gulf project met with congressional officials this week in hopes of stirring up support for a bill that could secure construction authorization for the long-awaited hurricane protection system.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, was hosting U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., in New Orleans this week. Shuster is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which will take up the Water Resources Development Act, known as WRDA, after it passes the Senate.

“Congressman Scalise has been a champion for Morganza, and he recognizes the significance of this project to our residents and the entire nation. We thank him for bringing Chairman Shuster to Louisiana to hear and see our issues firsthand, said Morganza Action Coalition President Sharon Bergeron.

The water resources bill could authorize construction of Morganza and would address other prioritizes for Louisiana, including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reforms. The bill passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week.

Morganza, which has been in development for more than 20 years, is a system of levees, floodgates and a lock on the Houma Navigation Canal designed to protect Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes from storm flooding.

The project was authorized in the last Water Resources Development Act in 2007 but was kicked back for another study to bring it up to post-Katrina construction standards. It was estimated to cost $886 million in 2007, but a draft report released in January increased that cost to nearly $13 billion.

The corps is completing its report on Morganza, and top corps officials will review it in May.

Lori LeBlanc, managing director of the Morganza Action Coalition, said Shuster was very responsive to the obstacles the hurricane protection project has faced.

Shuster said he had heard corps projects take 17 years on average to come to fruition.

The federal Morganza project has long suffered unnecessary corps delays while local residents have taxed themselves to provide some level of critical protection against devastating storm surge, LeBlanc said. A quarter-cent sales tax was passed in 2001 to help pay for Morganza, and voters approved an additional half-cent sales tax in December.

“Congressman Schuster clearly understands our frustration with the lengthy corps process and the need to complete projects, such as Morganza, in a more timely manner to protect coastal communities and critical energy infrastructure like we have here in Terrebonne Parish,” LeBlanc said.

Shuster’s support is important for the project’s inclusion in the House version of the water resources bill. The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate but will face a tougher fight in the House, which has had large turnover since 2007 when the last water projects bill passed. There are as many as 200 new members of the House who have never dealt with a water resources bill, LeBlanc said.

But even if the bill passes with Morganza’s authorization in it, the project will still face a long road. It will compete with a backlog of corps’ construction spending estimated to be as much as $90 billion.

It will also have to go back to Congress to secure construction dollars.

Last week, Morganza Action Coalition officials traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of the corps, the Louisiana congressional delegation and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee staff about Morganza’s progress.

“Terrebonne Parish is the epicenter of energy and seafood production for our nation, and the Morganza Action Coalition will continue to aggressively push for federal Morganza authorization to protect our communities and our resources,” Bergeron said.

Nikki Buskey can be reached at 857-2205 or nicole.buskey@houmatoday.com.

200 OK


The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.

Please contact the server administrator, [no address given] and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.

More information about this error may be available in the server error log.