Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Morganza Myth & the Same Political Games

Today Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal traveled to Houma and gave a little speech at the Waterlife Museum. He pledged his support and $101 million in state funds to a levee project known as Morganza-to-the-Gulf, one designed to protect the better part of Terrebonne Parish, and of which only three miles has ever been constructed in sixteen years.

"A year ago to this day...I made a commitment to right decades of failure in government," he told his audience, and he is not entirely wrong. A lack of sufficient levee protection has left Terrebonne Parish in harm's way. Hurricanes Rita and Ike proved that fact when they ignored the parish's drainage levees and flooded thousands of homes and businesses. However, for all of the governor's words and the state's money, this might not be enough. One-hundred million only buys Terrebonne Parish taller, but less-than-adequated, levee protection. The real Morganza fortification will not come until the federal government steps in.

That is where this game gets interesting. At first, you have to wonder why such an announcement, one about subpar protection, would even warrant a press conference. Then you realize that Governor Jindal must have known he needed to get out in front of this following story. That way, Congress could be the only target of public frustration when people learn that, in spite of his words today, little real effort is likely to get done to ultimately protect Terrebonne Parish.

The feds are not coming--at least, not for years, if ever.

Corps delays push Morganza back once again

Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 7:58 p.m. Last Modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 8:01 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS - It could be three years before an updated federal Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee project, designed to post-Katrina hurricane protection standards, can be sent to Congress for authorization, Army Corps of Engineers officials said Wednesday.

And after the project is authorized, the levee will take 20 to 30 years to build, said Carl Anderson, senior project manager with the corps.

"The initial study for this project started in 1992. If you add those two to three years they're talking about, that's over 20 years of study on a project," said Jerome Zeringue, with the Governor's Office of Coastal Acitivities.

Corps officials held a briefing at district headquarters in New Orleans Wednesday to give reporters a picture of what the bigger, stronger and more expensive Morganza might look like.

Morganza is a system of levees, floodgates and a lock on the Houma Navigation Canal designed to protect Terrebonne and parts of Lafourche from storm flooding.

After Morganza was approved by Congress in Dec. 2007, the corps sent the levee project back for more studies to update the nearly 15 year old project.

The new Morganza will be made up of earthern levees armored with protective fabrics. To get the levee system up to a 100-year level of flood protection, the levees would increase in height by 60 percent, and could be up to 28 feet high in some areas, Anderson said.

The levees will increase in width by over 300 percent, and could be over 700 feet wide in some areas, he added.

Such a levee would take between 20-30 years to complete along the 64-mile path from west Terrebonne to Larose, Anderson said.

After a little over a year of study, corps officials said they've decided that the original path of the levee, winding from west Terrebonne to Larose and encompassing most of the parish, is the best way to protect Terrebonne.

The corps studied four alternate versions of the levee and weighed the benefits.

"What they announced was that after a year of study, they approved the same alignment we've had for 10 years," Zeringue said.

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