Hurricane protection for St. John Parish moves closer to reality

Hurricane protection for St. John Parish moves closer to reality

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Areas around Laplace are one step closer to gaining hurricane protection following congressional passage of a major water projects bill.

The U.S. Senate gave final legislative approval to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.

A statement from Senator David Vitter, R-Louisiana, said the bill on the way to the president's desk, "will help improve flood control, water infrastructure development and coastal hurricane protection throughout Louisiana."

Among the highlights are $743.8 million for hurricane protection outside the New Orleans levee system on the southwestern shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain.

While the bill authorizes the project, supporters still face the additional hurdle of pushing funding through congress in the future.

According to Vitter's office, the bill authorizes a number of other projects of interest to Louisiana, including:

·         Calcasieu Lock: Authorizes reconstructing the aging Calcasieu Lock, ensuring safe, reliable transportation along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, one of our nation's most vital shipping lanes.
·         Southwest Coastal Louisiana, LA: Authorizes the $3.16 billion project for hurricane storm surge damage reduction and ecosystem restoration for communities in Southwest Louisiana.
·         Mississippi River Ship Channel, Gulf to Baton Rouge, LA: Modification to the Port of New Orleans Project, Louisiana, increasing the allowable Federal maintenance between the approaches to the Port's current and future container facilities and associated Harbor area, and the Mississippi River Ship Channel from the Gulf to Baton Rouge, Louisiana
·         Expedited Competition of Authorized Projects-Flood Damage Reduction: Directs the Corps to expedite the completion of the Comite River Diversion and flood protection measures along the Amite River and Tributaries project in East Baton Rouge.
·         Harbor Deepening: Changes the cost-share for deepening waterways to 50-feet from the current 50/50 cost-share to 75% Fed and 25% non-fed to better the Mississippi River for post-Panamax vessels.
·         St. Tammany Parish: The Secretary shall conduct a study to determine the feasibility of carrying out projects described in the St. Tammany Parish Comprehensive Coastal Master Plan for flood control, shoreline protection, and ecosystem restoration in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana
·         Pearl River: Deauthorizes the project for navigation, Pearl River, Mississippi and Louisiana, at the date of enactment of this act.
·         Red River Below Denison Dam: Deauthorizes the portion of the project for flood protection on Red River Below Denison Dam, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, is no longer authorized beginning on the date of enactment of this Act.
·         Non-Fed Interest Dredging Authority: Establishes a pilot program authorizing ports to get limited reimbursement for maintenance they perform using their own equipment on federal navigation channels to help clear the bureaucratic log jam in routine maintenance and operation of Louisiana waterways.
·         Beneficial Use of Dredged Materials: Provisions that increase the beneficial use of dredged material, which is critically important for the restoration of our coast – including the placement of dredged material in a location other than the least cost alternative. Allows use of dredged material from a non-Federal project, if obtained at non-Federal expense.
·         Wetlands Mitigation: Requires the Secretary to issue guidance regarding credits available from mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs and provides that mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs be considered reasonable alternatives.
·         Ouachita-Black Rivers Navigation Program - Bank Stabilization: Add bank stabilization as a project feature from mile 0 on the Black River, LA to mile 460 on the Ouachita River.
·         Discrete Segment: Authorizes the Corps to give credit or reimbursement for discrete segments of projects as they are completed.
·         Transfer of Excess Credit: Clarifies authority in WRRDA 2014 allowing the transfer of credit between projects.
·         Additional Measures at Donor Ports and Energy Transfer Ports: Extends the authority to provide additional funds for donor ports and energy transfer ports permanent. Also clarifies how payments are to be administered.
·         Completion of Ecosystem Restoration Projects: Amends the requirement for monitoring ecosystem restoration projects (from WRDA 2007) to allow operation and maintenance of the project to be concluded when the ecological success criteria are met.
·         Gulf Coast Oyster Bed Recovery Plan: Authorizes the Secretary to conduct a Gulf Coast Oyster Bed recovery assessment.

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