In a conference committee meeting held today to resolve differences in the House and Senate versions of the 2010 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bills, the committee declined to include the Landrieu/Vitter Pump to the River amendment as part of the legislation. The amendment, co-sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, provided funding for the Corps of Engineers to conduct a peer-reviewed, feasibility and cost analysis study on the proposed plans for permanent pump stations at New Orleans three outfall canals.
Aaron Saunders, communications director for Landrieus office, says the senator attended the meeting and attempted to explain to the House and Senate Energy and Water Committee, that the amendment had the unanimous, bipartisan support of the Louisiana congressional delegation, Jefferson Parish Council, New Orleans City Council and the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board. House members of the committee objected to the amendments language, saying they believed it would delay protecting New Orleans. Landrieu countered by stressing the 18-month feasibility study would take place simultaneously while the Corps initiated option-neutral construction of the pump stations.
There are three proposals Option 1, 2 and 2a for constructing the pump stations at the 17th Street, Orleans Avenue and London Avenue canals. Option 1 would allow for new pumps that would only be used during a storm event when floodgates would be closed, and the newer pumps would work in tandem with Sewerage and Water Board pumps to drain rainwater. Numerous critics of this option have said the plan still relies on pumping water through the designed and storm-weakened floodwalls of the outfall canals.
Option 2 would create permanent, all-purpose pumping stations, used when the floodgates are open or closed. Under Option 2, outfall canals would be deepened and paved, so water would gravity-flow to the pump stations, and some of the S & W pumps would no longer be necessary. Option 2A, or Pump to the River, would provide all of the improvements of Option 2, and would include a plan to add a pumping station in Old Metairie to send water directly to Lake Pontchartrain rather than through the 17th Street Canal.
The Corps has maintained that it only has congressional authority to build Option 1. In a report from earlier this year, the Corps estimated that Option 1 would cost approximately $804 million; Option 2, $3.4 billion and Option 2A, $3.5 billion.
Despite Landrieus attempts to get committee members to understand the amendment would not prevent the Corps from starting the project, committee members chose to drop the amendment. Landrieu says she hasnt given up the fight, adding that todays failure was prompted by actions from the Corps of Engineers.
Todays decision by House and Senate Energy and Water Committee leadership to drop our Pump to the River amendment is unconscionable, Sen. Landrieu says. This move seriously impedes our progress in establishing a truly integrated system of storm surge protection and interior drainage for Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. Today, the people in harms way the citizens in Southeast Louisiana -- have been failed once again by Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps arrogance has led them to ignore the unanimous voice of local leaders and residents, ignore public hearings and ignore a vigorous floor debate on this issue. The Corps stubbornness ultimately subverted the House-Senate negotiations and today the bureaucracy won the battle. But this fight is not over. I will work closely with other Louisiana Delegation members in the coming weeks to take this issue directly to the White House and seek all available means to advance the Pump to the River project.