Politics
12:26 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Vitter's New Clout Could Bring Changes to Army Corps

The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for many flood control projects around the state - like the Morganza floodway.
The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for many flood control projects around the state - like the Morganza floodway.
Credit US Army Corps of Engineers

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets Thursday to discuss reforms to the Army Corps of Engineers.

One of Louisiana’s senators, David Vitter, now sits as the ranking minority member of the committee.

Vitter saif the Corps has a history of putting projects on the back burner because of cost and bureaucratic entanglements.

“Important projects take twenty years or more, deadlines are almost never met,” Vitter said. “It’s just one paper shuffle after another.”

One project, called “Morganza to the Gulf,” aims to beef-up flood-protection in Lafouche and Terrebonne parishes. Vitter said the Corps has tossed that project around for decades.

“Folks in the Corps have consciously used cost issues and bureaucratic hurdles to try to kill this project through delay,” Vitter said.

Vitter’s committee is in charge of revamping the Water Resources Development Act. That law, among other things, has some oversight of the Corps, and is renewed every five years. In addition to streamlining the passage of projects, Vitter wants to restructure project administration, “by letting state and/ or local partners on the project be lead project manager." Local leaders would have more initiative to speed up a project’s timeline and stay on budget.

This isn’t the first time Vitter’s tried to overhaul the Corps. Vitter partnered with a democratic senator from Florida last year, Bill Nelson, and failed to pass similar measures. Vitter’s new authority – and continued bipartisan support (this time from Barbara Boxer, the majority leader of the committee) – should make him more effectual this go-round.

Garrett Graves of Louisiana’s Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority is scheduled to testify at the Thursday meeting.