State sues Corps over wetland restoration costs
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should bear the full $2.9 billion cost of restoring wetland damage blamed on poor maintenance of the now-closed Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, Louisiana coastal restoration officials say in a federal lawsuit.
The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans by the Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority.
"This is not the kind of suit that seeks monetary damages," the authority's board chairman, Jerome Zeringue, said in a news release. "But unless we can get this resolved nothing will get done."
The lawsuit notes that the man-made waterway often referred to as the "Mr. Go" has been blamed for contributing to catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It cites U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval's 2009 finding that the Corps' failure to properly maintain the waterway led to erosion of the navigation channel and saltwater intrusion that damaged wetlands and made southeastern Louisiana more vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding.
Outlining a history of congressional action on the waterway, including 2007 statements by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., the lawsuit says federal law ordering the closure of the channel after Katrina also requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to bear the full cost of restoring wetlands damaged by years of poor maintenance of the waterway. The Corps is seeking 35 percent of the nearly $3 billion cost from Louisiana, according to the lawsuit.
The Corps has closed the channel, "but has defied Congress' directive to undertake the ecosystem restoration project and to operate and maintain the entirety of the project at full federal expense," the lawsuit states.
Corps spokesman Ricky Boyette in New Orleans said in an email that the agency could not comment on pending litigation.
Another lawsuit filed by a south Louisiana flood protection board against the oil and gas industry also takes aim at degradation of wetlands that form a natural hurricane buffer for New Orleans. That suit says more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies have contributed to coastal damage by drilling and dredging canals along the coast.
Gov. Bobby Jindal and members of the Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority have opposed that lawsuit.
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Posted on Wed, October 29, 2014
by KEVIN McGILL, Associated Press