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New Orleans,  News,  Non-fiction

Louisiana to get $1.2 billion in federal flood-control funds; these long-stalled projects could benefit

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Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG — Aerial of the Comite Diversion Canal. Looking west. Mississippi River at top.

WASHINGTON — The federal government will be sending more than $1.2 billion in grant money to pay for flood-control and prevention projects in the state, Gov. John Bel Edwards and U.S. Rep. Garret Graves announced Thursday.

A number of long-stalled U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in the state — including the Comite River Diversion Canal, New Orleans-area flood protection projects or parts of the Morganza to the Gulf levee system — could get funded through the massive federal allocation.

Just which projects will be in line for the funds remains unclear. Edwards said in a statement Thursday evening that state officials are waiting for details from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — the agency handling the grant — on exactly how the dollars can be spent.

The cash comes out of a larger pot of grant money included in a roughly $90 billion disaster-recovery package Congress passed in February primarily to respond to a series of devastating hurricanes and deadly wildfires that pummeled Texas, Florida, California and the U.S. Caribbean territories of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in 2017.

Although the package was largely aimed at disasters last year, Louisiana was also eligible for money to beef up flood defenses in parishes hit with floods in 2016.

The $1.2 billion grant is roughly twice as much money as Louisiana officials initially expected to receive under the program.

“This new investment from HUD is critically important to our rebuilding efforts,” Edwards said. “It will allow us to make investments in flood risk reduction and infrastructure projects in areas of our state that were devastated by the 2016 floods, including partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers to make investments in large-scale projects such as the Comite River Diversion Canal.”

Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican, said in a phone interview Thursday evening that the block-grant funding from HUD provides Louisiana considerable flexibility to decide which projects to invest in and frees the state to move on Corps projects that have sat stalled for years.

Efforts to clear debris from bayous and ditches in flood-hit parishes could also receive funding under the HUD grant, Graves said.

“These resources will be used as part of an overall solution for Comite (River Diversion Canal) — a solution that will include Army Corps of Engineers funding — but will also give Louisiana flexibility to directly take the lead on implementing and completing projects instead of being held hostage by the bureaucracy of the Corps,” Graves said in a statement.

The Corps is also expected to budget additional money for flood-control work in Louisiana in the coming months.

Congress sent the Corps roughly $12.5 billion for flood protection projects in states hit by recent disasters as part of the February disaster package and also included hundreds of millions in extra funding for the Corps in the recently passed federal budget.

Corps officials have not yet announced which specific projects will be built with that money. Graves said Thursday he’s been working with officials at the Corps to prioritize critical Louisiana projects, including Comite and the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Levee Project, an 18-mile stretch of levees that would protect parts of the River Parishes against floodwaters from the lake.

The $90 billion disaster-relief relief package passed Congress in early February as part of a broader budget deal that kept the federal government operating and raised budget caps. A majority of Louisiana’s congressional delegation — including Graves — voted against the overall bill.

Graves at the time criticized the overall deal for driving up the federal budget deficit and criticized congressional leaders for cutting a number of changes to federal disaster-relief policy, including a broader fix to rules blocking flooded homeowners who’d been approved for SBA loans from tapping federally funded rebuilding grants.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, backed the package, as did Reps. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, and Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre.

“Congressman Scalise was proud to work with his colleagues in Congress and the Trump Administration to pass the disaster appropriations bill that provided these important funds to help Louisiana continue rebuilding after the 2016 floods and further protect families and communities in Louisiana against future storms,” a spokesperson for Scalise said Thursday night.

 

Native of New Orleans, who endured 20yrs cruel Minnesota Cold, I decided at 42yrs old it was time to pack up my then 6yr old and come back to my roots. I am all things that would challenge the belief of growing up in New Orleans. I was a 16yr old teen mother of a preterm 2lb baby girl born with a disability. With the help of my mother who had her own struggles. We survived the obstacles laid before us. I'm the proud mother of three children with two failed adoptions, as well as a grandmother of three, two grandsons and a granddaughter. I survived two abusive marriages. I successfully ran a soulfood restaurant and catering company in Minnesota for 12 years. I started creating custom cakes after the murder of my beloved cousin Melvin Paul.  He survived Katrina only to go to Minneapolis six months later to be murdered over a parking spot dispute.  I put my all into my cake business over the years as House of Cakes was started right out of my house in honor of him. I thought by having the big house on the hill, a husband, having a family, foster/adoptive mother at that, being involved in all things that matter, plus having the funds to match would cure me in a sense; but most of it poisoned my heart and soul. I had a broken heart and I felt deep down the only way to repair it was to get back to my roots, my soul, my home,  myself, my New Orleans. I'm here and I'm loving it. Even being in the so called Blighted Area of New Orleans and not having all the financial and material security, I'm happy. I am determined that She, yes New Orleans is a woman is just like me; together we will overcome and will rise from all that tried to kill our spirit. Nothing like starting from the bottom and making your way back up! I'm down in the boot, but I know I have a nice floppy hat awaiting my destiny...

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