House Committee vote keeps levee on schedule

Published 12:05 am Saturday, June 4, 2016

LAPLACE — After a successful vote in Washington D.C. last week, St. John the Baptist Parish is one step closer to securing funds for a levee, officials said.

Buddy Boe

Buddy Boe

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously May 25 in favor of the Water Resource Development Act of 2016, or the WRDA bill, which contains the Westshore Lake Pontchartrain Levee Project.

District 7 Councilman Buddy Boe said since the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have each passed the bill, the next step is to have both full chambers look at the bill.

Boe said the U.S. House and Senate membership will make their own changes to the bill and from there it will go to a conference committee, where the differences will “be ironed out.”

“After that. both chambers will vote again and if it passes, then it will go to the President,” Boe said. “Our delegation still feels confident that the bill will get through the process this summer. It was another hurdle passed last week, but there are still several more to go.”

If the bill containing the levee project makes it through the process and is approved by the President, Boe said, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can start asking for money every year through their annual appropriation process.

“Then we will match their request for money with the state’s budget and our local funding,” Boe said. “We’ll start making a financing timeline to begin designing, permitting, geo-tech analyzes, purchasing the right of way and wetlands mitigation. That will consume the next several years, then we can prep the project for construction.”

Boe said the bill is still on track to be in front of the President this summer.

“We need it to happen in June/July because by mid August everyone in D.C. goes home and campaigns for the election,” Boe said. “We need to make sure this gets done, meaning to the President, within the next 60 days. That’s the goal.”

At this time Boe said a local presence is no longer needed in D.C., adding officials will go back only if necessary.

“Our delegation isn’t just defending our project, there is a lot in this bill that really helps all of south Louisiana, so our entire delegation has reasons to support it and make sure it happens,” Boe said

Boe, with Parish Council approval last month, took steps to set up a local committee of Parish Council members with a sole focus of getting the levee paid for and built.

The Levee Protection Committee plans to meet this month to discus plans for the future.