The Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority recently released a study it commissioned to determine if levee districts’ income is sufficient to pay for the maintenance costs of the system in the short term. Prepared by the Rand Corp., the study had a narrow focus and it returned the requested information, but does not tell the full story.
The study did not include many additional costs such as necessary future levee lifts, system improvements or enhancements, local cost-share of the current system or other mandated expenses. For example, the local cost share (the payback to the federal government) for the new system will cost $20 million annually for the next 30 years — costs not included in the study and by itself moving levee districts from the black to the red!
But that is not the only cost. We intend to raise the level of protection well above the current protection standard, which is the lowest in the developed world. Necessary future levee lifts must be performed, in places in as soon as 10 years, to keep up with subsidence, at a cost in excess of tens of millions of dollars, and many more millions when sea level rise is taken into account. These costs were not considered in the study.
Our authority is currently engaged in projects to stabilize the Lakefront seawall and the 40 Arpent Canal Floodwall — at an estimated cost of $20 million — costs not considered in the study. We have begun a study of the use of the Central Wetlands as an additional storage unit which could enhance protection provided by the Lake Borgne Storm Surge Barrier well beyond its design protection — costs yet to be determined and not included in the study.
We are considering incorporating additional technology into the levee system to monitor lateral and vertical movement, as well as provide real-time data on system closures — costs not included in the study. The marsh that is between our levees and the sea provides our first line of defense and is in desperate need of ongoing restoration efforts. We are currently trying to identify particularly strategic areas where we can restore the marsh ourselves — costs not included in the study.
All those projects are, we hope, feasible. Of course, the single project that will provide enhanced protection to all communities along Lake Pontchartrain — closure structures at the passes — Chef and Rigolets — cost in excess of $3 billion, but was not a cost considered in the study. None of these expenses were considered in the report — they were outside of its scope.
The report should have concluded with a statement that the maintenance of the new system is sustainable over the next four years, but that developed countries must build protection above the current standard of 100 years. To do less invites future disasters. The money to do so, without new federal appropriations, will take every available dollar.
Timothy P. Doody, president
Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection
Authority-East New Orleans