Flood protection top priority at Landrieu meeting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Working together and patience are key to success, senator stresses at St. John function


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Hurricane and flood protection measures are still very much on the minds of many in South Louisiana, and the River Parishes region is certainly no exception.

At a meeting recently, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu met with newly elected officials from St. John, St. James and St. Charles Parishes to discuss long term flood protection for the region, and motivate elected officials to work beyond parish lines to develop solutions.

“The River Parishes have always been a good regional group,” Landrieu said to the roughly 40 officials attending the meeting at Bull’s Corner Restaurant in LaPlace. “I want to encourage you all to meet together more often to discuss problems, challenges, and vulnerabilities.”

The senator said she comes and goes in the River Parish region on a regular basis. She said when each parish comes to her with a list of priorities, it makes it hard for government to get them what they want.

“It is time to pull these parishes together to work in a more regional fashion,” said Landrieu.

Landrieu alluded to the fact that since Katrina, the region has seen significant growth from people looking to find higher ground, and adequate hurricane protection is a high priority. The senator said she is leading the battle in Congress to get federal money to the state for levees and pumps.

“It is important to me that people can live close to water safely,” said Landrieu. “Whether we live near the lake or the river, we can do it smart, and we have to work hard.”

Landrieu explained that as part of the recently passed Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), the state has secured a trust fund that will contribute money to a long term comprehensive flood protection and coastal restoration plan. She said the fund is fueled by the 37.5-percent revenue sharing that the state enjoys from oil drilling in the region.

Despite the fact that money is available, Landrieu stressed that local government officials should not expect to see results overnight. In the months following Hurricane Katrina, Landrieu was a member of a delegation that trekked across the Atlantic to the Netherlands to take a look at levee systems there. The goal of the endeavor was to bring some of that European technology back to Louisiana, and get an understanding of the work that lies ahead.

“It took the Dutch 30 years to bring their levee system online,” said Landrieu. “This is not a job that gets done in five years, it will take time and patience from you.”

St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard said he supports the senator’s emphasis on patience, but still believes the parish’s proposed levee system should be put in place in an accelerated fashion.

Hubbard said he explained to the senator that St. John has been on the short end of the stick for too long, and said he would like her to look into speeding up the process.

Along with encouraging cooperation locally, Landrieu also invited River Parish leaders to come to national meetings and speak to national leaders and provide firsthand knowledge of the problems that Louisiana faces.

“There is still a national consciousness of the hurdles we face in our state,” said Landrieu. “But it is imperative that the nation hears from the electorate of the region to get a more lasting impact.”