Economic Rx a good boost for Tri-parishes

What do you call $53.4 million in funding for levees, maintaining waterways, transportation projects and efforts to bolster the shrimp and oyster industry?

A good start.

U.S. Congressman Charlie Melancon returned home last week after a series of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in Brussels, Belgium, to talk about President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.

The $787 billion plan includes more than $53.4 million for projects specific to south Louisiana.

The good news: Funds for much-needed levee projects – including $5.748 million for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane protection system – are included.

According to Melancon, the Morganza appropriation is broadly designated for the investigations phase of the project, but could be used for the planning, engineering and design of the lock on the Houma Navigational Canal, which many dub the highest priority component in the hurricane protection project.

Another $1.158 million is included to maintain and dregdge the navigational canal. This is an added coup, given the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ recent admission that dredged materials have proven beneficial in lower Louisiana in creating marsh in open water areas. Using the dredge material along the banks of the canal should provide an added benefit in slowing coastal erosion.

The Obama stimulus package also includes $8.3 million for dredging the navigation channel on the Atchafalaya River and bayous Chene, Boeuf and Black.

The channel in the Atchafalay River is critical to the Port of Morgan City’s survival. The river system provides export access for offshore oil and gas products and import access for raw materials. By performing an advanced jetty engineering project, the Corps predicts the water flow will speed up, allowing the river to “self-scour” and eliminate the “fluff” problem at the mouth of the river.

Nearly $1 million has also been designated to upgrade the levee system from Larose to Golden Meadow. Like Morganza, the project was authoritized in the Water Development Act of 2007. With the additional monies, the levee system will be built to 100-year protection levels.

Golden Meadow will also receive $400,000 for storm water system improvements. Work on the multi-phase project began in the late 1980s. In this stage, a gravity sewer collection system is being installed that flow to a pump station, greatly reducing the likelihood of flooded homes along La. Hwy. 1 and La. Hwy. 3235.

For years, the Tri-parishes has begged Congress for funds to fix our coastal problems. Last year’s storms served as another reminder of how precarious our region has become. Maybe Obama’s stimulus will finally bring the needed funding to fix these problems once and for all.