Skip to comments.New Orleans district U.S. Army Corps of Engineers faces reduction - in fiscal 2006 (Ivan flashback)
Posted on 09/04/2005 9:58:17 AM PDT by Libloather
New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers faces reduction
New Orleans City Business
June 6, 2005
by Deon Roberts
In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding.
It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said.
I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction, said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. I think part of the problem is it's not so much the reduction, it's the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It's the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to.
There is an economic ripple effect, too. The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now.
Money is so tight the New Orleans district, which employs 1,300 people, instituted a hiring freeze last month on all positions. The freeze is the first of its kind in about 10 years, said Marcia Demma, chief of the Corps' Programs Management Branch.
Stephen Jeselink, interim commander of the New Orleans Corps district, told employees in an internal e-mail dated May 25 that the district is experiencing financial challenges. Execution of our available funds must be dealt with through prudent districtwide management decisions. In addition to a hiring freeze, Jeselink canceled the annual Corps picnic held every June.
Congress is setting the Corps budget.
The House of Representatives wants to cut the New Orleans district budget 21 percent to $272.4 million in 2006, down from $343.5 million in 2005. The House figure is about $20 million lower than the president's suggested $290.7 million budget.
It's now up to the Senate. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, is making no promises.
It's going to be very tough, Landrieu said. The House was not able to add back this money ... but hopefully we can rally in the Senate and get some of this money back.
Landrieu said the Bush administration is not making Corps of Engineers funding a priority.
I think it's extremely shortsighted, Landrieu said. When the Corps of Engineers' budget is cut, Louisiana bleeds. These projects are literally life-and-death projects to the people of south Louisiana and they are (of) vital economic interest to the entire nation.
The Corps' budget could still be beefed up, as it is every year, through congressional additions. Last year, Congress added $20 million to the overall budget of the New Orleans district but a similar increase this year would still leave a $50 million shortfall.
One of the hardest-hit areas of the New Orleans district's budget is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes. SELA's budget is being drained from $36.5 million awarded in 2005 to $10.4 million suggested for 2006 by the House of Representatives and the president.
The project manager said there would be no contracts awarded with this $10.4 million, Demma said.
The construction portion of the Corps' budget would suffer if Congress doesn't add money. In 2005, the district received $94.3 million in federal dollars dedicated to construction. In 2006, the proposal is for $56 million.
It would be critical to this city if we had a $50 million construction budget compared with the past years, Demma said. It would be horrible for the city, it would be horrible for contractors and for flood protection if this were the final number compared to recent years and what the city needs.
Construction generally has been on the decline for several years and focus has been on other projects in the Corps.
The district has identified $35 million in projects to build and improve levees, floodwalls and pumping stations in St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Charles parishes. Those projects are included in a Corps line item called Lake Pontchartrain, where funding is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million this year to $2.9 million in 2006. Naomi said it's enough to pay salaries but little else.
We'll do some design work. We'll design the contracts and get them ready to go if we get the money. But we don't have the money to put the work in the field, and that's the problem, Naomi said.
The Appropriations Committee in Congress will ultimately decide how much the New Orleans district will receive, he said.
Obviously, the decisions are being made up there that are not beneficial to the state, in my opinion, Naomi said. Let's put it this way: When (former Rep.) Bob Livingston (R-Metairie) was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, we didn't have a monetary problem. Our problem was how do we spend all the money we were getting.
NEW ORLEANS - More than 1.2 million people in metropolitan New Orleans were warned to get out Tuesday as 140-mph Hurricane Ivan churned toward the Gulf Coast, threatening to submerge the below-sea-level city during what could be the most disastrous storm to hit in nearly 40 years.
Residents streamed inland in bumper-to-bumper traffic in an agonizingly slow exodus amid dire warnings that Ivan could overwhelm New Orleans with up to 20 feet of filthy, chemical-polluted water. About three-quarters of a million more people along the coast in Florida, Mississippi and Alabama also were told to evacuate.
Walter Maestri, an emergency manager in New Orleans, America's most vulnerable metropolitan area, has 10,000 body bags ready in case a major hurricane hits. As Hurricane Ivan's expected path shifted uncomfortably close to the low-lying urban soup bowl, Maestri said Tuesday he might need a lot more.
If a strong Category 4 storm such as Ivan made a direct hit, he warned, 50,000 people could drown, and the city could cease to exist.
"This could be The One," Maestri said. "You're talking about the potential loss of a major metropolitan area."
Forecasters said Ivan, blamed for at least 68 deaths in the Caribbean, could reach 160 mph and strengthen to Category 5, the highest level, by the time it blows ashore as early as Thursday somewhere along the Gulf Coast.
"Hopefully the house will still be here when we get back," said Tara Chandra, a doctor at Tulane University in New Orleans who packed up his car, moved plants indoors and tried to book a Houston hotel room. Chandra said he wanted to ride out the storm, but his wife wanted to evacuate: "All the news reports are kind of freaking her out."
Houston-area emergency officials were keeping an eye on Ivan's path and have made preliminary plans should the hurricane continue to turn west.
Galveston County emergency management officials Tuesday discussed the potential for landfall there.
High tides are always a concern for Galveston County residents, and more so for those living in low-lying areas such as on the Bolivar Peninsula and West Galveston Island, the emergency management office said Tuesday. The county will continue to watch the storm and the potential for higher than normal tides to decide whether to evacuate those areas.
With hurricane-force winds extending 105 miles from its center, Ivan could cause significant damage no matter where it strikes. Officials ordered or strongly urged an estimated 1.9 million people in four states to flee to higher ground.
"I beg people on the coast: Do not ride this storm out," Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said, urging people in other parts of the state to open their homes to relatives, friends and co-workers.
Late Tuesday, Ivan was centered about 325 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and moving north-northwest at 10 mph.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami posted a hurricane warning for a 300-mile swath from Apalachicola in the Florida Panhandle to New Orleans and Grand Isle in Louisiana. Forecasters said Ivan could bring a coastal storm surge of 10 to 16 feet.
About an hour away from New Orleans in Baton Rouge, I-10 West was filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Highway rest stops, convenience stores and gas stations were filled with people fleeing the storm. Some evacuees were worried about their homes being flooded and what they would find when they returned.
New Orleans, the nation's largest city below sea level, is particularly vulnerable to flooding, and Mayor Ray Nagin was among the first to urge residents to get out while they can. The city's Louis Armstrong Airport was closed Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, off western Mexico, forecasters were watching Hurricane Javier, a Category 4 storm on a northwest course out to sea. Forecasters said it was possible the storm could make a sharp turn toward the southern Baja California peninsula.
Ok so a cut for this year for a STUDY (not work, STUDY) is to be hyped but "All they money they were getting" for the last 50 years is to be ignored
re: a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now.
All these years without figuring out how to protect the region of the storm everyone knows is a certainty, not if but when.
I would like to see many separate audits by different agencies into just how the billions that have going to that district have been spend so far.
re: $343.5 million in 2005
And they can't find the funds to do any actual projects, just the planning?
Can we blame this on the French? I like that...
A "study" of the levees was to have taken a few YEARS.
Only then, would construction begin, after more billions
was allocated by Congress.
Louisiana, of course, was utterly unable to spend any money on a STUDY itself, or on repairing its own levees; it had much more important things to do, like building a replacement for the Superdome, and a new convention center.
New Orleans was there before USA acquired it and before USA came into existence.
And until now it was one of the major US cities, a major port and key strategic center of trade and industry. To amputate New Orleans is like cutting off one of your fingers.
You are missing something. The levees need to be maintained continuously. A few years ago the same wind and waves would not cause the flood, but the levees were neglected recently.
That is pure speculation and you present no facts to support that statement.
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