Graves Secures Billions in New Flood Protection and Other Water Infrastructure Investment Approvals

Published 1:30 pm Thursday, May 19, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) secured the approval of billions of dollars in new flood control, ports, inland waterways, hurricane protection, coastal restoration and other infrastructure improvements for Louisiana in the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA). WRDA will authorize water resources infrastructure projects and dictate how those investments are selected, prioritized and carried out. Louisiana alone represents 30 percent of the total US portfolio of water infrastructure and management projects in the United States — and one of the most important and complex in the world.

Graves, as a member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has battled the federal bureaucracy to break the logjam on priority infrastructure projects that have been stuck for decades.

The committee’s actions provided another opportunity for Graves to highlight Louisiana’s coastal and water importance to America’s long-term economic competitiveness. Nearly two dozen of the amendments and other provisions in the legislation are a direct result of Graves’ conversations with local, state and federal officials after Hurricane Ida – as they were after Katrina, Gustav, Ike, Isaac and the August 2016 Flood.

“Louisiana has some of the nation’s best strategic assets in the country. Our rivers, bayous, energy, ports, coast and other resources are the envy of America, but they can also be some of the most challenging to manage. Just last year, one of the most powerful hurricanes in history devastated communities across south Louisiana. We can’t fix things by doing more of the same. We included some key wins for our state in the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 that will make us safer. This bill helps maximize Louisiana’s assets while protecting our communities and families – and reinforces Louisiana’s leadership in maritime commerce,” Graves said.

“Water is the lifeblood of our nation’s economy, public health, and environment,” Congressman Troy Carter said. “In Louisiana we also know that we must plan comprehensively to safely manage water in our communities. WRDA 2022 is the mechanism Congress uses to build a stronger, healthier, water system for our nation. As we try to untangle our supply chains and navigate threats from climate change, we can’t delay critical water management, port upgrades, environmental, or safety projects. I am proud to have achieved meaningful bipartisan successes for Louisiana in this legislation alongside Congressman Graves, and I look forward to voting for its passage in the House.”

Graves authored several provisions which were included in the legislation:

  • Upper Barataria Project: Authorization of a $1.5 billion project for hurricane and flood protection improvements, helping to protect the Upper Barataria Basin parishes of Lafourche, St. Charles, St. John, Assumption, St. James, Jefferson and Ascension.  Final approval of this project, expected later this year, will immediately send $8 million to begin pre-construction engineering and design.
  • Comprehensive Lower Mississippi Study: Advances the effort to improve the operation of the river, including flood protection, port performance, seafood production and the restoration of our coast. The current management regime, including the rigid 70/30 split at the Old River Control Structure, is antiquated and based upon outdated science. This provision will result in the release of $5,000,000 in funding Graves previously secured to conduct this important work.
  • Hurricane Protection and River Levee Improvements: $1.9 billion in projects authorized in St. Charles, Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parish – working in partnership with Reps. Scalise and Carter. (Section 401)
  • Marsh Restoration to Protect Port Fourchon (Section 215) Partnership with Rep. Scalise
  • Restoration of MRGO: Provision confirms that the project was intended to fully be the responsibility of the federal government. (Graves-Carter Amendment #206)

Authorizes new investments to improve water and wastewater systems through the Corps Environmental Infrastructure Program:

  • Capital Region (East Baton Rouge, Ascension, and Livingston Parishes): Increases authorized funding to $90 million.
  • Bayou Parishes (Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Charles, Assumption, St. James, St. John, and St. Mary Parishes): Increases the project authorization by $10 million.
  • River Parishes (St. John, St. James, and Assumption Parishes): Increases authorized funding to $36 million.

 Policy Improvements:

  • Aquifer Working Group: Graves amendment includes farmers and agricultural lands in efforts to help with aquifer recharge efforts to ensure irrigation and sustainability of our farms and water sources. (Graves Amendment working with Cong. Julia Letlow #208)
  • Prioritization of Dredged Material: Requires the Corps to prioritize coastal restoration when dredging sediment from our navigation channels in our coastal area. (Huffman-Graves Amendment #64)
  • Accuracy in Economic Value of Our Ports: Improves the accuracy of data on the commercial value of ports, concentrating on the value of commercial fishing and aquaculture harvest. (Graves Amendment #195)
  • Online Permit Filing: Amendment which requires the Corps to join the 21st century and create an online portal to file, update, and track permit applications. (Graves Amendment #199)
  • Building Back Stronger: Provision which will allow the Corps to build flood protection projects back to higher, stronger standards rather than allowing repetitive flood damages. (Section 102)
  • Coordination between FEMA and the Corps: improves information sharing on the National Levee Database (NLD). As flood protection projects are finished, it is critical that they are added to the NLD as soon as possible to ensure that flood insurance policy holders see their premiums go down, especially with the rising rates under the harmful Risk Rating 2.0 policy. (Graves Amendment #205)
  • No Adverse Impacts from Levee Modifications: Amendment to ensure that potential modifications to levee systems will increase flood resiliency, reduced flood risk, and benefit individuals living behind the levee system in Special Flood Hazard Areas. (Graves Amendment #204)
  • Ensuring Appropriate Land Acquisition: Provision will require the Corps to require the lowest type of land acquisition to support Corps projects. Decreasing costs and speeding up the completion of critical projects. (Section 227)
  • Extension of Credit Transfer Authority: Extends, for two years, the ability of the state to transfer the value of extra work it’s done on Corps projects to fulfill cost shares owed on other Corps projects. (Section 330)
  • Corps Responsibility of Levee Subsidence: Ensures the Corps continues to meet expectations to rehabilitate existing levees in Louisiana to ensure they offer the maximum flood protection.  (Section 330)

Graves also received an agreement to work on the below key issues before the bill goes to the House floor for consideration:

  • Comite: Requirement for the Corps to completion of the project within one year (Graves Amendment #9)
  • Morganza: Gives our locals Corps credit for the work they’ve done on the project dating back to 1989.
  • Public Lands for Corps Projects: Requires the Corps to provide credit to the State when publicly owned lands are acquired to support a Corps project (Graves Amendment #210)
  • Loan Repayment Options: Supports additional opportunities for the state to repay the Corps for the long-delayed protections after Hurricane Katrina. (Graves-Carter Amendment #200)