An Investment in LA-01 Storm Protection and Waterways is an Investment in the Nation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) delivered testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water in support of projects in Louisiana's First District that will help provide lifesaving flood protections and boost the national economy. Whip Scalise specifically discussed deepening the Mississippi River to 50-feet, flood protection in St. Tammany Parish, and the Morganaza to the Gulf hurricane and storm surge protection project in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes.
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Read the full remarks below:
Thank you, Chairwoman Kaptur and Ranking Member Simpson, for allowing me to address this subcommittee on the importance of investing in Corps of Engineers projects and feasibility studies that primarily focus on protecting our communities from natural disasters and strengthening our nation’s waterways. Specifically, I am here to talk about a few projects in my district that have a national impact on our economy and energy security. This includes: deepening the Mississippi River from 45-feet to 50-feet, the St. Tammany Parish feasibility study, and Morganza to the Gulf of Mexico hurricane and storm surge protection project. Lastly, I am here to express my support to this subcommittee on investing in the safety and security of our nuclear waste repository.
Louisiana is one of the top five energy producing states in the country and, as home to the mouth of the Mississippi River, my district serves as a critical gateway to the world moving 500 million tons of cargo in international trade. I am asking this subcommittee to consider providing necessary funding that gives the Corps of Engineers the flexibility they need to invest in deepening the lower Mississippi River from 45 to 50-feet.
As you can imagine, when we saw the widening of the Panama Canal, it created a lot of opportunities to move larger vessels. By making that investment, it allowed the larger vessels that are moving through the Panama Canal to gain access to our inland waterways. We knew back when Thomas Jefferson made that $15 million investment in 1803 to double the nation’s size, it was to get access to the Port of New Orleans through the Mississippi River. That port and that waterway, the Mississippi, is still the gateway to so many of our nation’s producers of agricultural products and so many other exported products. We can take even further advantage of the deepening of the Panama Canal by deepening to 50-feet on the Mississippi River.
Additionally, it provides a dual benefit of rebuilding Louisiana’s vanishing coastline. In the past, the dredged sediment used to be dumped into the Gulf of Mexico where there was no beneficial use. That sediment from dredging can now be used to rebuild Louisiana’s vanishing coastline. We lose about a football field of land every single hour in Louisiana. It is a major national crisis. In our state, we’ve dedicated things like deep water drilling revenues to restoring our coast. The state has also put up large amounts of money. We’ve dedicated what will probably amount to well over a billion dollars of the BP settlement from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. That money will go to rebuilding the coast land that has been eroding. The dredging in the Mississippi River allows us the ability to take that sediment and use it to rebuild land and coastline, which also helps defend against future storms.
In recent years, Louisiana has managed to secure long-awaited Corps project authorizations that were held-up due to bureaucratic red-tape. But as members of this subcommittee, you all know that authorization is only the beginning of turning studies into reality. In 2016, Congress authorized a new start feasibility study for St. Tammany Parish, which would examine the need for hurricane surge, flood, and shoreline protection projects in a vulnerable area of my district. While the southern and western portions of Lake Pontchartrain have received funding for related projects, the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain – which during Katrina saw storm surges ranging from seven to sixteen feet destroy thousands of homes and small businesses – has yet to see a single federal dollar dedicated to flood protection. I ask this subcommittee to consider including necessary funds for new start studies, so projects like these in St. Tammany Parish can move forward.
In the 2014 WRDA bill, Congress reauthorized Morganza to the Gulf, a hurricane and storm damage reduction project located within my district of Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. Unfortunately, this reauthorization came after nearly 20 years of studies that spent more than $70 million, all without the Corps of Engineers putting a single shovel in the ground. Any funding provided to this project would strengthen our community in southeast Louisiana as well as the billions of dollars in economic activity that provide valuable energy resources to fuel this country. It is also important to note that while this project has yet to receive any federal funding, local taxes and bonds have allowed $400 million to be invested in the project. I ask this subcommittee to consider providing the Corps of Engineers additional resources for construction projects, like Morganza to the Gulf, to be completed.
Lastly, I want to express my strong support for including robust funding for the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that gives them the ability to complete the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. I’m glad President Trump included $116 million for the Department of Energy and $38.5 million for the NRC for this purpose. I urge this subcommittee to seriously consider and support this request. These funds would ensure that the State of Nevada, and other stakeholders, have an opportunity to participate in the licensing process and have their views heard. Our decades-long failure to move this project along costs the American taxpayer nearly $2 million a day. Reports show we’ve already spent eight billion in taxpayer dollars because of needless delays and our inability to meet our legal obligations to the nation’s electric utilities. Failure to provide funding that secures spent nuclear fuel will only cause further financial hardship on the American taxpayer and uncertainty for ratepayers, who in many parts of the country rely on nuclear energy, one of our most reliable sources of electricity generation.