Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The $12 Million

As state legislators debated the Boasso bills last special session, part of the argument for consolidating levee boards in Southeast Louisiana was to get $12 million dollars to study hurricane protection:
The governor said she could see her way to a compromise that would create separate boards on the east and west banks, but a federal defense budget appropriation bill contains language that would withhold $12 million for a levee study if the state does not create a "single" board in southeast Louisiana.

"I don't know how to accept a compromise with that federal legislation in place," Blanco said. "It's a very difficult decision."
Here’s what that federal legislation (Page 3) says:
Provided further, That none of the $12,000,000 provided herein for the Louisiana Hurricane Protection Study shall be available for expenditure until the State of Louisiana establishes a single state or quasi-state entity to act as local sponsor for construction, operation and maintenance of all of the hurricane, storm damage reduction and flood control projects in the greater New Orleans and southeast Louisiana area.
I see nothing about a “single” board. In fact, it seems like the powers given to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority in the amended Boasso bill that passed fulfils the “single state or quasi-state entity” requirement, even without the consolidation of levee boards:
Under Blanco's plan, flood-control experts with the state's Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority will negotiate directly for federal funding with Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The CPRA would be the “local sponsor,” controlling funds and overseeing projects. Whether you have one single levee board, or two west bank and east bank levee boards, or seven different parish boards, it seems like as long as they report to the CPRA the state would get the $12 million dollars.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the new consolidation. Regional cooperation is required to protect the region. New levees must be built uniformly along parish lines. And I like the fact that the two different basins, Barataria on the west bank and Pontchartrain on the east bank, are separate but both report to the CPRA.

I just think it’s interesting that the $12 million wasn’t really linked to a “single” levee board.

And about that $12 million coming with strings attached. $10 million was also appropriated to Mississippi (Page 5) under the same designation as “Hurricane Protection.” No strings attached.

That ain’t right.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Here's what's wrong: The mandate to consolidate the levee boards started not in Washington, but in Uptown New Orleans. The Boasso bill had two objectives: consolidate levee boards and make the boards professional and non-political. The bill that finally passed includes two professional boards that will operate free from patronage and good-ole-boy politics. But they will both answer to CPRA, which is a politically appointed board. And since CPRA will be the local sponsor and the conduit for money, they will get to call the shots on projects. So is this a success? I'm doubtful.