Sunday, September 04, 2005

From The Record...

Though it's common knowledge by now, I first wrote this several days ago. I'm cross-posting some of my posts from a different blog. While everyone now knows about Bush's cuts to the levee construction, below is additional information you may not have yet seen, including a heartwrenching snippet from the Congressional Record, Landrieu begging her colleagues for help with the levees a couple of years ago, not to defund the hurricane protection program.

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Louisiana Senators have been begging their fellow members of Congress the past couple of years to restore funding to keeping the levees in good shape. Congress has consistently refused to. And the Bush administration backed record CUTS to funding the Army Corps of Engineers' work this year, when such funding was critical for protecting the levees.

A horrifying article to read today, knowing what we know, one recent (but pre-dating Katrina) news story reads in part, "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. . . Landrieu said the Bush administration is not making Corps of Engineers funding a priority. . . 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.").


Now we are seeing the real cost of their actions.


And from the 2003 Congressional Record (this has been going on for years!):

Congressional Record

7/10/03


Senate



Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, as we are still working on the amendment, I hesitate to call it up at this point. I want to talk for a moment about why this amendment is so important. I think what the Senator from Alaska is doing is extremely important, and I commend the administration for putting forth a bill that really helps to address some very serious problems in our Nation because the emergency accounts are depleted.

There are many emergencies occurring in our Nation, from fires to tornadoes. People's lives and homes are at risk. If the Federal Government doesn't act and do it quickly and appropriately, tremendous hardships and difficulties can result. So I am 100 percent supportive, and so are the people in my State, just as is every State that suffers from natural disasters.

I am having a difficult time understanding why there is some hesitation_and the chairman has been very cooperative_to fund or to ask for money to fund the emergency fund_not a nonemergency fund, but an emergency fund that is completely empty. There is no money left in this account. It is a very important account not just for Louisiana, but for Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, California, and for all the States in the Union. It is the only account in the Federal Government that allows the Corps of Engineers to fix the levees when they are damaged in anticipation of a great storm that might come, and to prevent the loss of property damage. So we can save money in the bill by providing a little bit of maintenance on these levees. This account is empty.

I am asking for whatever the chairman and the Members of the Senate think we can afford_whether it is $20 million, $30 million, $40 million_to get us through the end of the year so we are prepared when the storms come. And they will come, hurricanes will come.

We just had a pretty tough storm last weekend. There is one out in the gulf as we speak. If I had time, I could put up a chart that shows where it is. There will be storms, and it is predicted to be a very difficult season. We hope and pray and prepare. But the account that helps us to prepare is empty. There is not a dime in this account. Let me repeat. The account that helps the Corps of Engineers prepare levee systems for the whole country_not just Louisiana_is empty.

We are getting ready to pass a bill to protect us from emergencies. Yet this account is empty. I am asking the Senate to not pass this bill without putting some money into this account so that we can build up the levees in anticipation of storms_not after a storm has come through and wreaked hundreds of millions of dollars of damage, but before the storm hits, to be able to repair the levees that have been weakened by rain or by storms that are not hurricanes, tropical storms, or storms that don't rate to be a hurricane, and to prepare the levees to prevent the taxpayers from having to pick up a bigger tab. -->

That is why I want to spend a few minutes talking about this issue and asking the Senate for its attention. If we can find $25 million to help fund disasters that occur because of dead trees, I think we can find at least half of that money somewhere to preserve the levy system in the country that protects billions and billions of dollars of infrastructure everywhere, not just in Louisiana.

As the chairman and staff are considering what to do, I hope we can find a certain amount of money to make sure we get through the end of the fiscal year or get through a period where on another bill, perhaps energy and water appropriations, we can add some money.

Whether $10 million or $20 million is enough, I do not know. Perhaps the Corps of Engineers which is engaged in this debate can give us some idea, based on weather predictions and patterns, determine what amount will be enough to help us.

This is a huge issue for Louisiana, and it is a big issue for all the States. My people are afraid. They are frightened. The phone has been ringing off the hook because of the storm from last week. When I called the Corps of Engineers, which I typically do after a storm, and said, Could you please send some crews to help us with the levees, the people are very frightened, they said to me: Senator, there is no more money. We would love to send the crews, but there is no money in the account.

I said: Do not worry about it; there is a bill coming through the Senate for this exact purpose_only to find out maybe the bill is not for this purpose. That is why I am going to offer this amendment in a few minutes, sometime tonight, and hopefully we can get it resolved.

The Senator from Nevada, because he is the ranking member on the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee which funds the Corps of Engineers, knows how important this particular fund is for the regular maintenance of a levee system, not after the Governor calls it a disaster. This is for maintaining the levees before the storms hit to prevent damage, to minimize damage, and save people's lives and property.

There are other accounts that kick in once something is declared an emergency. That is not what I am talking about. There is no money in the account right now as we speak to prevent and repair the levee.

The Senator from Alabama on the floor. I know he is going to speak on another subject. But there is no money to repair levees in Alabama, which is a coastal State, or any State. The account is zeroed out.

I yield the floor and reserve the right to offer my amendment later tonight. -->

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