St. John levee project money will not be used to fund president’s border wall, Sen. Cassidy says

Published 11:27 am Friday, January 11, 2019

LAPLACE — Funding for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Levee, which would benefit much of St. John the Baptist Parish, is not in danger of evaporating, according to U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy.

A spokesperson for the Louisiana Republication told L’OBSERVATEUR, “Money for Comite, West Shore and other Louisiana projects has already been set aside. What is being reported based on anonymous sources indicates unobligated Army Corps funds would be used, so no projects in Louisiana would be affected.”

Fox News and numerous other national outlets began reporting Thursday night that the White House is directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to see if it can divert money to President Donald Trump’s border wall project.

Championed last year as fully funded by a host of Democrat and Republican elected officials, the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Levee is a $760 million project involving two years of planning and three years of construction to provide 100-year storm surge protection to more than 100,000 River Region residents.

Suggestions that the White House may use Corps of Engineers post-disaster construction funds to construct a barrier between the United States and Mexico caught many off guard.

Parish President Natalie Robottom said she is extremely disappointed to see the “much needed” levee project to protect residents, their families and businesses from repeated flooding used as a bargaining chip to satisfy a campaign promise and resolve a “manufactured crisis along the border.”

“The real crisis is that hardworking people in our area have experienced recurring flooding waiting on a levee for more than 45 years and the project is being jeopardized for a political stunt,”Robottom said. “I am very hopeful that our Congressional delegation that fought so hard to secure these funds will fight just as hard to make sure they are used for their intended purpose and they will do everything in their power to support the people they were elected to serve.”

A representative for U.S. Rep Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) said the Congressman was in flight and would be available to address the concern this afternoon.

Richmond’s district includes a portion of St. John the Baptist Parish.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R-Baton Rouge), whose district also includes a portion of St. John the Baptist Parish, said the funds under consideration to be re-purposed toward a border wall are not funds from Louisiana.

“We are doing everything we can to work with the White House, Corps and others to temper the impact and urging them – should they move ahead with an emergency declaration – to only utilize funds that are not otherwise going to be spent in 2019 in order to create time to come back and replenish those dollars,” Graves said.

“It’s ridiculous that we’re in this predicament, that the government is partially shuttered, that federal employees aren’t getting paid right now, and that it has come to the president making an emergency declaration to divert billions of dollars from important projects to protect our southern border. We shouldn’t be here and this isn’t how this place is supposed to work. I don’t think that an emergency declaration is an option that should have to be on the table – and the precedent does concern me.”

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) did return a request for comment.