Insufficient Funds to Operate Brand New Flood Defense System in New Orleans
When this year’s hurricane season comes around this summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be handing over a brand new $14 billion flood defense system for New Orleans. But nobody is handing over an annual $34 million — $20 million in cost sharing for thirty years, and $14 million it will cost to operate the system each and every year from here on out.
The engineering solution was obvious: a perimeter defense surrounding the entire area. The result is the $14 billion, 220-mile chain of mud, concrete and steel walls that protect crabbers along Paris Road, jazzmen in the Ninth Ward’s Musicians’ Village, shop owners along Veterans Boulevard in Metairie and Garden District mansions.
But, due to local politics, the obvious one-for-all engineering fix was not paired with a similarly comprehensive source of funding.
Hurricane Katrina, of course, was the impetus for taking action in the first place. However, as climate change is making the water higher and as subsidence makes the land lower, the problems have been becoming slightly more urgent with every passing day. Local officials seem to think that the federal government should be picking up much of the local tab, but the days of big budgets and Congressional earmarks are over. Old school politics and patronage appear to be slow to adapt to the expensive new realities of their surroundings.