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Workers from LAD Services prepare a barge for its sinking in the Bayou Chene in an effort to prevent flooding from the opening of the Morganza Spillway on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Amelia.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has approved a federal disaster declaration for the state of Louisiana’s flood fight, including some emergency protective measures, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Wednesday evening.

“I thank President Trump for recognizing the urgency of our request and responding so quickly,” Gov. Edwards said in the statement. “We have been preparing for the opening of the Morganza Spillway by submerging a barge in Bayou Chene to reduce backwater flooding into communities across five parishes. This is an important first step, and we stand ready, alongside our federal partners, to support our local leaders in the coming days and weeks, as even more water is expected to make its way to Louisiana.”

The approval is for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance under the Public Assistance program, at 75 percent federal funding for St. Mary Parish. FEMA also can provide direct federal assistance for the parishes of Assumption, Catahoula, Concordia, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, Rapides, St. Landry, St. Martin, Terrebonne and West Feliciana. FEMA will cover 75 percent of the costs.

Members of the Louisiana congressional delegation had come together to ask Trump for the federal emergency declaration ahead of the historic opening of the Morganza Spillway this weekend.

"Protection measures such as gabion baskets and sandbags, and a barge structure at Bayou Chene and other protection features in the Atchafalaya Basin are required," the bipartisan group wrote in a letter to the White House. 

This weekend will be the third time the spillway is opened in its 46-year history. It is expected to create massive flooding throughout the Atchafalaya Basin. It's just the latest flood threat for thousands of Louisiana residents, they write in the letter, which urges the federal government to expedite emergency measures to prevent major flooding events that are caused by drainage from other states "and a lack of proper river management and maintenance of the Mississippi River system."

The delegation also has sent a second letter directly to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address farm concerns before the Corps opens the Morganza on Sunday.


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All eight members — Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, and Reps. Ralph Abraham, Garret Graves, Clay Higgins, Mike Johnson, Cedric Richmond and Steve Scalise — signed both letters.

About 25,000 acres of farmland in the area could see massive flooding, and officials say it threatens a total crop and aquaculture loss in the region.

"Louisiana agriculture is still recoiling from the heavy hit provided by severe weather and tariffs imposed by China in the 2018 planting year," members wrote in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. "Tens of thousands of acres of soybeans and other commodities were left standing in fields unharvested, while others faced a severely depressed market. The opening of the Morganza Spillway will further devastate the lives and livelihoods of Louisiana farmers."

That letter seeks for the USDA to "stand ready not only to provide all appropriate (USDA) emergency and non-emergency resources available to those adversely impacted, but to assist eligible farmers and producers to access available aid across the federal government."

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.