USACE Appropriates $16M for Flood Management

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Posted December 6, 2018

In November, the United States Army Corps of Engineers released its 2019 work plan detailing the year’s civil appropriations, including more than $16 million in investment to the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) to fund drainage projects on the West Bank. Legislators praised the decision, while emphasizing that more funding and research are needed.

“Investment in SELA is pivotal in protecting the people, properties, businesses, and other establishments in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. I will continue to fiercely advocate on behalf of my constituents in Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district for the protection they deserve, and will ensure that this protection is sustainable for years to come,” said Congressman Cedric Richmond in a statement responding to the funding announcement.

All told, the Corps of Engineers detailed projects related to more than $180 million in Louisiana appropriations in their plan for the year, including more than $75 million in Mississippi River navigation work. Representative Steve Scalise noted that work would lead to “major improvements” in a press release, but also vowed to push for additional project funding not included in this year’s budget.

2019 funding also includes $1.5 million to study the entrance to the port of New Orleans. “With this appropriation, we will conduct a feasibility study to determine whether increasing the depth of the existing channel is in the nation’s interest,” said Ricky Boyett, chief of public affairs with the New Orleans’ District of the Corps of Engineers.

The Corps has come to play a significant role in flood protection over the years, beginning with the Flood Control Act passed by Congress in 1928 following the great 1927 Mississippi river flood. During subsequent decades, the Corps’ projects focused primarily on protecting area residents from river flooding. The Corps’ role has expanded to encompass protection from hurricanes and heavy rain events as both increasingly threaten our region, along with many others across the country.

After a severe rain in 1995, the Louisiana legislature established SELA, authorizing the Corps to begin local drainage projects, typically with some matching funds from municipal sources. SELA’s primary goal is reducing the risk of flood damage due to rainfall in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes. More than $2 billion in projects are planned in Orleans and Jefferson parishes alone, meant to prepare the area for a ten year rain event – when more than nine inches of rain falls in a 24-hour period.

Completed SELA projects include the improvement of canals along Jefferson, Napoleon and Claiborne avenues in Orleans parish, as well as the Soniate Canal, Trapp Canal and Murphy Canal in Jefferson parish.

Mayor Cantrell’s office also lauded the Corps’ funding announcement. “The City is thrilled to learn about the $16.3M appropriation for the Army Corps’ SELA program on the West Bank of Orleans Parish, which represents a down payment for work on the approximately $500M Algiers Canal SELA project. With more frequent and intense heavy rainfall events, this project will help to further reduce our flood risk and improve the quality of life for our Algiers residents. We look forward to our continued partnership as the SELA program progresses,” press secretary LaTonya Norton said.

Corps of Engineers representative Ricky Boyett confirmed that the funding, “will be used to initiate construction of the Algiers Canal SELA project on the West Bank. Similar to the SELA projects in Uptown New Orleans and Jefferson parish, this project will help reduce the flood risk associated with a 10-year rain event. This year is the first time we have received funding to undertake SELA work on the Orleans West Bank and marks an important step in helping address rain-induced flooding in this area of the parish. The Corps is now in the process of identifying the best element of the overall project to undertake with these funds,” he said.

SELA funding is just one element in a complex network of federal, state and local monies going toward flood and storm protection. With SELA projects, the Corps of Engineers foots the majority of the bill, with municipal sources typically responsible for 25 to 35 percent (a matching requirement that has been waived in certain circumstances, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina). With the federal government supplying the bulk of the funding – SELA projects are an important part of protecting southeast Louisiana as storm and rain events increase.

“Louisiana remains vulnerable to volatile rain and subsequent flooding, and I have worked tirelessly with my colleagues across the aisle to ensure this funding would be a priority for the Army Corps of Engineers,” Congressman Richmond said.

Source: The Louisiana Weekly