For Immediate Release: August 3, 2009
Contact: Chris Macaluso
Houma Courier: "Reforming the corps is a must"
Please Note: the following editorial was printed in the Houma Courier August 2, 2009
Published: Sunday, August 2, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 2, 2009 at 12:43 a.m.
State officials have tried recently to get a loose plan together for improving the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers by making the bureaucracy more efficient.
To that end, they held a series of meetings across south Louisiana - including
one Wednesday in Houma - where experts discussed problems with the corps and possible solutions.
This much is clear: Something must be done.
On average, a Corps of Engineers project takes 40 years to go from paper to reality.
That's an average. Some, of course, take longer.
Local residents don't need any more proof that the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane-protection system, which has been mired in red tape for more than a decade and its status even now is still unclear.
It has been through studies and planning and design. And it's been authorized by Congress.
But the entire process took so long that the price numbers changed and, according
to a ruling by the corps, necessitated another decision by Congress.
It is that type of delay that must be rampant in projects that take four decades to complete. More than the effect, though, the cause should concern us all.
There seems to be a culture within the corps that insists upon paperwork and studies rather than work and results. And that simply cannot be tolerated as we depend on this agency for the future protection of our homes, businesses and lives.
"There are corps projects that have been going on for 50 years and they've spent
hundreds of millions of dollars and they still aren't built," said Clifford Smith, a member of the corps's Mississippi River Commission.
That is inexcusable.
Some of the possible ways to attack the inaction of the corps were discussed Wednesday - some of them seemingly with promise.
For instance, Gov. Bobby Jindal's coastal aide Garret Graves suggested that the bureaucratic requirements on the corps's New Orleans district be lightened to allow that office to catch up on some of its backlog, a situation created by the fact that it is overseeing about three times the number of projects other corps offices oversee.
That certainly sounds like it has potential.
We know that something must be done. The time span of 40 years is so long that many of the coastal-restoration or flood-protection projects that will help determine our future will be rendered useless in the intervening decades.
We wish the state luck as it goes up to bat against a colossal federal bureaucracy, a sea of red tape that has become synonymous with government delay and waste.
Still, it must be done. Louisiana's coast is too important to wait four decades to save.
Our future depends on being able to get a good number of projects under way in the near term. The long term will be too late.
A corps that doesn't understand and factor that into account is worse than unhelpful.
It could help seal our doom.
The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority's mandate is to develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive coastal protection and restoration master plan. For the first time in Louisiana's history, this single state authority will integrate coastal restoration and hurricane protection by marshalling the expertise and resources of the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, and other state agencies, to speak with one clear voice for the future of Louisiana's coast. Working with federal, state and local political subdivisions, including levee districts, the CPRA will work to establish a safe and sustainable coast that will protect our communities, the nation's critical energy infrastructure, and our bountiful natural resources for generations to come. The CPRA of Louisiana was established by Act 8 of the 1st Extraordinary Session of 2005.