OUR VIEW: Morganza requires knowing what is, isn’t
There is no denying it, the Morganza to the Gulf project is an impressive undertaking. It is the best imperfect plan available, designed to reduce the impact of tidal surges, slow storms from washing away marshland and delay drainage from damaging inhabited areas.
Morganza to the Gulf is not a prevention plan. It is a protection system for Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. In an ideal world it could reach the Atchafalaya River and assist Morgan City in St. Mary Parish.
Also in that ideal world hurricanes would never make landfall and offshore storms would not push rising seawater tides to levels that overtake land.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the project’s federal sponsor, but it has been the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District, Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government and the South Lafourche Levee District that have taken the lead in securing realistic accomplishments.
Ideal intentions list initial lines of defense as including rebuilt barrier islands and a rock shoreline constructed to provide daily wave protection, which in turn would help restore marshlands.
The next line of defense would be an outer federally constructed levee system, followed by an inner state and locally financed levee and floodgate network (the area referred to when most people talk of current system activity), with final drainage and levee lines along critical zones and elevating of homes in the most vulnerable areas as a final protection line.
All together the project would offer defense against tidal and hurricane surges that carry storm strengths up to a category three. It just would not prevent them.
There will never be a guarantee that the Tri-parish region, nor any of southeast Louisiana, will never again experience hurricanes such as Andrew, Gustav or even the side effects of Katrina.
The greatest challenge for Morganza, beyond meeting its one-time targeted completion year of 2035 or its lack of federal funding, is the prolonged benefit of not having a significant weather event and the impact that has on maintaining public support.
Hurricane season officially begins June 1, and it has been three years since the Tri-parish region experienced a major storm. Extended periods of calm create complacency as residents become accustomed to their immediate conditions, forgetting what was and could be again.
We support Morganza to the Gulf construction. We call on our neighbors to not become complacent, but to get involved from calling congressmen to helping plant marshlands.
Morganza is not prevention, but it is practical protection provided the public participates in its progress.