Senator: No money soon for coastal protection

BY Chris Rosa

LSN STAFF WRITER

The Vermilion Library meeting room was crowded with concerned Vermilion Parish citizens who came to hear if there was good news about solving the parish’s flooding problems.

The parish was hit with two storm surges in four years, causing millions of dollars in damage to residents and crops in southern Vermilion Parish.

The residents heard good news but they also heard bad news from U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

First, the good news.

Louisiana will be receiving millions of dollars thanks to the Domenici/Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Bill that was created four years ago.

Oil field companies, who will drill three miles off the coast of Louisiana, and the coasts of other Gulf Coast states, will have to pay the U.S. Government a percentage of their leases.

This could be as much as $2 billion a year for the federal government. Each state on the Gulf Coast will get a percentage of that $2 billion. Louisiana, for example, is expected to receive $500 million. Twenty percent of that $500 million is expected to be shared by 19 of the coastal parishes to be used for coastal protection.

That would mean the approximate $100 million would be shared with the coastal parishes of Louisiana.

The bad news, however, is that coastal states will not be able to collect any of that oil field lease money until 2016.

That means the Parish will be without hurricane protection for another six years.

She said she is doing what she can to try to get that money down to state government faster.

“When we do get this money we can plan things and do things,” she said.

“The most important issue we have in south Louisiana is water management,” she said. “If you think about it, we could build all the great economic structures or we could double the amount to farmers or the amount to people in the cities. But if we continue to have the amount of flooding we have had in the past few years, all will be for naught.”

Landrieu had more bad news about a possible flood protection levee for the Parish.

The Parish had hoped it would get some kind of flood protection levee when a six to 10 foot spoil levee would be built when the Corps of Engineer dredged the Intracoastal Canal. The Corps would put the spoil from the dredging on the southern bank of the canal.

The Senator told everyone not to count on that as a protection levee because the Corps of Engineers is backed up with $40 billion of projects and none of them is the deepening of the Intracoastal Canal. The Corps receives $5 billion a year from the federal government.

Landrieu said there is not a day that goes by that she is not fighting to get money for coastal protection to south Louisiana.

“This is what I work on morning, noon and night,” she added. “I spend 60 percent of my day on coastal issues. We are going to get another one (hurricane). Our homes are going to go under the water again – 10, 12, 15 feet. It will get worse. There is no time to fool around with this.”

Something the residents of Vermilion Parish already know.

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