Landrieu visits Oak Alley

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 28, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

VACHERIE – Sen. Mary Landrieu braved severe weather last week to discuss pertinent issues regarding the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Project during a luncheon at Oak Alley Plantation on Wednesday.
Government officials and staff from all three River Parishes, including Parish Presidents Natalie Robottom, Timmy Roussel and V.J. St. Pierre, attended the event.
Landrieu began her talking points with a St. Charles battle with flood insurance and the Biggert-Waters Act. Landrieu said that Congresswoman Maxine Waters would probably not have passed the act had she known the effect it would have on the community. Landrieu said the state’s flood insurance program has been the same since the late ’60s, but that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused such a big pull on the program that the government was “scared.”
“It was basically caused by Congress, and I am part of Congress as you all well know, passing a piece of legislation that had consequences that were not fully appreciated or understood. The bill was
supported by all bankers, realtors and homebuilders in America because, in their minds, and they were correct about this, we needed to reauthorize our flood insurance program because in Louisiana we can’t operate without flood insurance,” she said.
“So much money was paid out that from the federal government’s perspective they declared it unsustainable,” she continued.
Landrieu said she has created an act that will delay premium increases for about one year, during which time she said would do her best to fix the situation and work to convince the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reconsider drawing the maps.
“The sad story of this is we should’ve been building stronger levees and found the money to do so 40 years ago. But we didn’t. We’ve lived a little bit in denial,” said Landrieu.
The senator said the government has promised funding for levees for years but did not back up its promises until Katrina hit in 2005. As a result of the damage, she said the government was “so embarassed by what it hadn’t done since the 1960s and 70s in our region” that it sent funding for levees. Coincidentally, most of the funding only went to Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes. Landrieu said only about three out of 19 coastal parishes have bare-minimum protection.
“This is a sad situation. I want the parish to understand that while I’m fighting as hard as I can for the three River Parishes, our job together is huge. We have to make up a lots of ground that should’ve been done 40 years ago but hasn’t,” she said.
Landrieu reminded attendees that the money for new levees would not come from the Army Corps of Engineers, since the last few presidential administrations have not invested enough money into the agency. According to her, the agency only has a budget of $1.6 billion for the whole country.
Landreiu revealed shocking statistics about the government’s profit from industry in the region since the Mineral Lands Leasing Act in 1920. She said one of the worst things that could happen to the state was to lose the battle for a larger percentage of royalties and encouraged attendees to get involved in taking back their resources.
“The federal government has taken off of our shore alone $161 billion since the 1950s in royalties paid by the oil companies every time they lease in the Gulf. One hundred percent goes to the government. It’s just heartbreaking to see the lack of infrastructure that we have in a place that generates extraordinary wealth for everyone in the country. And our people have to live afraid of a little rainstorm,” said Landrieu.
The senator said she is tired of fighting over crumbs and plans to go for the “whole cake” and divide it evenly amongst the coastal parishes.