February 6, 2019
By Scott Yoshonis, DailyComet.com
Gov. John Bel Edwards spent Wednesday afternoon in and above Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes to gather information on the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane protection system and also to bring a bit of good news.
Edwards was briefed by local levee officials on the progress of the massive project, a 98-mile lock, levee and floodgate system designed to protect 150,000 residents of Terrebonne and Lafourche as well as 1,700 square miles of wetlands.
The briefing took place at a luncheon held at the Houma-Terrebonne Airport before the governor and local officials boarded a military helicopter for an aerial tour of the system.
Reggie Dupre, executive director of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District, Dwayne Bourgeois, executive director of the North Lafourche Levee District, and Windell Curole, general manager of the South Lafourche Levee District, gave Edwards and Chip Kline, chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, a detailed briefing on the progress of the Morganza project.
“We’re trying to show the governor and some of his administration all the work we’ve done,” said Dupre. “We want to continue to move forward to get more of this Morganza system built.”
Edwards said he has seen individual components of the project, but grasping the scope of the entirety of it can be elusive.
“To be able to see the whole system at one time will give us a better appreciation for it and what the central components are that are still missing,” Edwards said. “We are more resource-constrained than we’d like to be. These projects are very, very expensive, and while we have revenue coming in, the revenue is coming in over a long period of time. We’ve got to figure out what do we do now, where do we get the most bang for the buck?”
Edwards announced the state will provide $13 million for a pump station at Elliot Jones Canal in the Bayou Black and Gibson area, a project that Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove has been working to finance for years.
“That’s fantastic news,” Dove said. “That will give us two pumping stations pumping 2,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) of fresh Chacahoula water into our estuaries and lowering the level of the Chacahoula Basin, which is 109,000 acres.”
A major theme of the presentation was the need for federal money to complete the massive Morganza endeavor. Edwards said he is confident that money can be found even without direct appropriation from the federal budget.
“We’re trying to increase the revenue sharing from mineral production offshore of Louisiana to what it is onshore,” Edwards said. “Other things we’re looking for is any effort through the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers or other federal funding opportunities.”
Edwards also cited an agreement between the state and the federal government to pay back a portion of the cost of a hurricane risk reduction system by the Corps of Engineers undertaken after Katrina. That project was slated to be up and running and handed over to the state in 2011 but has not yet been completed.
“When that happens, we are contractually obligated to pay back about $100 million per year,” Edwards said. “What we’re trying to get the federal government to do is allow us to do projects like this and credit that toward what we owe. It’s an indirect way of getting federal funding for projects that have a positive impact on hurricane risk-reduction systems that they have already built.”