Water Resources Development Act Essential for Terrebonne and Lafourche

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The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) has been called “essential to everyday American life” by the U.S. Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, which also noted that “nearly 80 percent of trade good traded goods that Americans rely on is moved through our Nation’s ports, harbors and inland waterways.” 

Locally, two ports are looking for the passage of the bipartisan WRDA 2020, which passed in the House of Representatives but still awaits approval from the Senate, to deepen waterways and potentially increase production.

If it passes, the Terrebonne Port Commission will be authorized to deepen the Houma Navigation Canal at 20 feet, adding five feet of depth. 

“Since the mid-90s, the industry in this area has been screaming for a deeper channel because the oil and gas industry is going out into deeper water and they need deeper vessels, so 15 feet just isn’t enough,” David Rabalais, Executive Director of the Terrebonne Port Commission, told Bayou Business Monthly in September. 

At Port Fourchon, the Greater Lafourche Port Commission (GLPC) will be permitted to deepen Belle Pass into Bayou Lafourche from 24 feet to 30 feet. 

“That will allow us to better serve our current customers and also work towards attracting new business,” said Chett Chiasson, Executive Director of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission (GLPC).

The longterm goal for Port Fourchon is to make Belle Pass a 50-foot channel, which he hopes would be approved in WRDA 2022. The plan for the port is to have a deepwater rig repair and refurbishment facility in the coming years. 

WRDA, which sees a different version of itself pass through Congress every two years, is a bipartisan effort that affects many waterways around the country. 

“WRDA is the congressional commitment to our Nation’s water infrastructure. It authorizes studies and project construction and provides guidance on agency practices,” the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment wrote. “Regular consideration of locally-driven, rigorously-studied, and nationally-significant water infrastructure is key to preserving our Nation’s economy, to protecting our communities, and to maintaining our quality of life.” 

According to a press release from the office of Representative Steve Scalise (R-La.), for Louisiana, in addition to projects in the Houma Navigation Canal and Belle Pass, 2020 WRDA includes HSDRRS Renegotiation, language that allows Louisiana to renegotiate the terms of the deferred payment agreement for the hurricane protection system around New Orleans; Tangipahoa Flood Study, authorization of a feasibility study for flood risk management in Tangipahoa Parish; and Baptiste Collette Deepening Authorization, authorizes the deepening of Baptiste Collette from current depths of 14 feet in the inner reach and 16 feet in the outer reach to depths of 22 and 24 feet respectively.

“Overall, this legislation strengthens Louisiana’s position as a leading export state and a top producer of our nation’s oil and natural gas supply, and I’m glad Congress is supporting the infrastructure so critical to our state and nation,” Scalise said. 

At press time, WRDA still had to pass the Senate. 

“This year too has shown just how important Louisiana’s coastal and water future is for America’s best interest and long-term economic competitiveness. Our ports and waterways are the vessels that connect dozens of states to global commerce, we take on the nation’s water, and are the powerhouse for seafood and energy to the country,” said Representative Garret Graves(R-La.), who secured several provisions as a member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“This bill advances Louisiana and our country, and I am looking forward to seeing the Senate amplify our needs before it is signed into law by President Trump,” he continued. 

Chiasson noted that they hoped WRDA would pass before Congress breaks for the holidays and it could be included in a larger funding package. 

“WRDA is always so important to Louisiana because we have so much water,” he added. “The WRDA bill is about coastal protection efforts. It’s about restoration efforts, and it’s about navigable waterways and all of those things are around water resources.” 

“It’s the avenue by which we get authorized and appropriated funds to do all these projects,” he continued. “Particularly in Louisiana and our region, it’s important for our regional ports, our levee districts and alike to be able to get these projects authorized and funding for them to move forward.”•