Corps of Engineers wants feedback on plan protecting Terrebonne - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Corps of Engineers wants feedback on plan protecting Terrebonne

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Houma, La. - The idea dates back more than 20 years -- a federal levee system stretching around Terrebonne Parish, protecting it from the storm surge brought by countless hurricanes.  After two decades, the federal Morganza-to-the-Gulf risk reduction system is still just a map and a thick proposal.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the lengthy Post Authorization Change report available to the public this month.  It outlines changes made to the project since the last design in 2002. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita changed the Corps' standards.

"The project area has not changed.  However the extent of this alignment, in order to keep the integrity of that project area, has changed, just because of the new ways we're designing it," says project manager Elaine Stark. "So it's longer, it's higher, it's more expensive."

The new plan calls for 98 miles of levees and floodwalls, stretching all the way from Gibson in western Terrebonne Parish to the east side of Lockport in Lafourche Parish.  Reggie Dupre, executive director of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District, says the new plan comes with a price tag of $10.5 billion.

"65 percent of this money is going to come from the federal government, if it ever materializes with a completed project, and 35 percent from the state and local sources.  But that's in excess of $3.5 billion locally," says Dupre.

The federal project still doesn't have any funding and Dupre worries it would take a storm like Hurricane Katrina hitting Terrebonne Parish to get the money.

Dupre says the parish can't afford to wait.  Voters in December approved a half-cent sales tax that will generate about $12 million a year.

The levee district will use those funds to keep building its own protection system. But Dupre believes it won't withstand a major storm.

"Our whole survival depends on this," he says. "What we're doing with state and local dollars is just trying to hold on for now, and we eventually will need a federal major project to have the comprehensive protection project that we need."

Dupre says that's one reason the Corps needs to hear from local residents. It's the local voices that could help sway federal lawmakers and possibly put this plan into action.

The Corps is holding a public meeting Thursday evening at the Houma Municipal Auditorium. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

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