[StBernard] THE $3 BILLION QUESTION
westley at da-parish.com
Fri Apr 14 22:43:00 EDT 2006
That's pretty sad that Plaquemines will be no more. It was very pretty. We
looked at a place in Port Sulpher. Lots of orange orchards on the river.
There was a little town called Happy Jack; guess he's not too happy now. I
will save my Plaquemines Orange Festival throwcup in my Hurricane Box; it
may be worth something someday!
----- Original Message -----
THE $3 BILLION QUESTION
The Army Corps of Engineers says the cost of protecting Plaquemines
nearly equals what it will cost to protect the rest of the metro
Plaquemines officials say the figures just don't add up.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
By Bruce Alpert and Allen Powell II
That's how much the Army Corps of Engineers now says it will cost to
the 14,795 residents of Plaquemines Parish excluding Belle Chasse
flood with a 1 percent chance of occurring in any single year -- the
government standard for protection against a Katrina-like or
Under the new corps cost projections, an additional $6 billion is
top of the $3.5 billion the Bush administration has already
hurricane protection for the New Orleans area. Of the additional $6
it will cost nearly as much to upgrade levees in Plaquemines as
spent on protecting the entire remaining New Orleans area -- about 1
people, or 98.6 percent of the local population. The total would be
billion for the region, nearly triple what the Bush administration
Even in fast-spending Washington, numbers like that cause double
and major political problems for the state's congressional members.
being briefed on the new estimates this week, Louisiana members
President Bush to immediately request the additional $6 billion the
said is needed to enable residents and businesses to rebuild without
to elevate their homes and businesses 15 feet or more to meet
Of that $6 billion, the corps estimates that $2.9 billion would be
Suspicious of numbers
Parish officials said they are puzzled by the new cost estimates and
that their residents could be left out of the next round of levee
because of the high per capita costs.
They also express suspicion that the cost estimates are higher than
and suggest that wetlands restoration, natural barriers and targeted
projects could substitute for some of the most expensive levee
They also argue that a per capita analysis of flood protection costs
the national significance of the parish's energy and fishing
"Have you ever known the Army Corps of Engineers to do anything on
cheap?" asked state Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Arabi, who represents
He said he believes costs can be reduced significantly.
But even if the estimates are right on, Boasso said, Congress and
administration should realize that Plaquemines' flood
directly attributable to decades-old navigation projects along the
Mississippi River that badly eroded the area's marshes and wetlands
helping to bring America cheap oil, fish and other commodities.
"How much are cheap oil and other commodities flowing through to
worth? That's what people should look at rather than per capita
Caught off guard
Corps officials cited a number of factors for their new estimates:
of coastal wetlands and other natural barriers as a result of
Katrina and Rita; new discoveries of deficiencies in the system as
inspected the 169 miles of damaged levees in the seven months since
struck; and projections of increased likelihood of storms as strong
stronger than Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast.
Plaquemines Parish President Benny Rousselle said he, like most
officials, was caught off guard with the latest cost estimates. But
he believes the levee improvements can be scaled back -- if the
government works with state and local officials to combine levee
with coastal restoration and the creation of open space for natural
Plaquemines Parish Council Chairman John Barthelemy Jr., a Democrat,
the corps estimates are "grossly exaggerated" and should be reviewed
"But even if the cost estimates turn out to be in the ballpark, we
shouldn't be subject to the kind of cost analysis that looks at it
person numbers," Barthelemy said. "We're certainly not doing that in
Look at all the money we're spending there, and the loss of all
and yet when it comes to protecting an area with our wealth of
resources, energy and fisheries, the whole nine yards that benefits
whole nation, we are suddenly cost-conscious."
Saltwater in their veins
Some Plaquemines Parish residents say it probably makes sense for
federal government to balk at spending billions on levees for the
Albert Buras Jr., who rode out Katrina with family members in a boat
Boothville, said that no matter what the federal government builds,
eventually break again.
However, Buras said, the federal government's plans won't affect his
decision to return. Buras, a crabber and pipe welder, is already
his former home on Louisiana 23 and said he plans to remain there no
"I've been living here all my life. This is where the jobs are,"
Joshua Castille said the federal government owes it to the people of
Plaquemines Parish to protect their way of life. The parish, he
said, is a
major hub for the seafood and sport fishing industry, whose absence
hurt the nation as a whole.
"We've lived here all our life, and now someone is just going to
away," he said.
Castille said he never planned to return to Plaquemines after
Katrina destroyed his home and his fishing boat.
Castille, 19, and his wife, Brittany, 19, had started a new life in
where Joshua found work as a diesel mechanic and Brittany got used
creature comforts like movie theaters.
But, Castille said no matter how he tried, he couldn't be happy in
because the saltwater in his veins wouldn't let him be anything
other than a
commercial fisher. So on Thursday, the Castilles came back to Empire
rubble that used to be their neighborhood.
While the couple wait for a FEMA trailer, Castille is rebuilding an
fishing boat so that he can get back to the only way of life that
happy. Peeling boiled crawfish with his wife and 70-year-old aunt,
said he hopes the federal government builds better levees, but
their absence won't make him leave home again.
"These waters is my home and I know what to do in them," he said.
be great if there was a place a half hour from where I worked as a
that didn't get hurricanes, but there isn't a place."
Mark Davis, executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal
Louisiana, worries that the corps' new projections for levee
only in Plaquemines but throughout the New Orleans area, will take
resources away from coastal restoration.
"I don't think there is any realistic way to provide 100 percent
for every community and every house," Davis said. Choices, he said,
be made, keeping in mind that the state's flooding vulnerability
mitigated with "gigantic levees alone" -- that restoration of
islands and wetlands is also vital.
>From one of Washington's fiscal watchdog groups, the message is
government needs to be fiscally responsible as it decides what
flood control projects to finance.
"We've always said that when it comes to Katrina and other natural
that there are times when you have to make hard decisions as we go
-- that we have an obligation to help and protect people but we have
priorities and can't simply allow the past, or old decisions, to
what we do now," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for
. . . . . . .
Bruce Alpert can be reached at bruce.alpert at newhouse.com or (202)
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