[StBernard] EDITORIAL: How much longer to close?
Westley at da-parish.com
Tue Nov 27 00:14:54 EST 2007
Because the Army Corps of Engineers moves at the speed of government, it
would be wise not to get too excited about the corps' recent announcement
that the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet could be completely closed off in 170
That's 170 days after the $24.7 million construction project begins, but
when it begins depends chiefly on when Congress funds it.
The corps proposes building a rock dike at Bayou la Loutre and deauthorizing
MR-GO for navigation. The deauthorization of the channel was part of the
Water Resources Development Act that became law in early November after
Congress overrode President Bush's veto. Even so, WRDA as a whole and the
MR-GO project in particular have to be funded by Congress. And nobody moves
at the speed of government quite like Congress.
The corps has never seemed particularly excited about closing MR-GO, and its
officials continue to dispute claims that the shipping channel and the
extensive erosion it caused exacerbated Hurricane Katrina's toll on St.
Bernard Parish and the eastern part of Orleans Parish. Even now, the corps
suggests that it is calling for MR-GO closure because paying to dredge the
channel for the few ships that use it would not be an efficient use of
If the corps wants to do the right thing for what locals deem the least
persuasive reason, so be it. What's important is that MR-GO be closed. The
corps' willingness to recommend closure is significant.
The shipping channel has wiped out 27,000 acres of wetlands and cypress
forest over the past 40 years. And the channel never delivered the economic
boom supporters said it would. Ultimately, the damage done by the waterway
far exceeded its meager economic benefits.
Yet even post-Katrina the corps had to be prodded to get to this point.
As government projects go, building the rock dike that will close MR-GO will
be a speedy one: 170 days, less than six months from start to finish. When
it will start is the question, but to the people in St. Bernard Parish, it
can't start soon enough.
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