State, federal leaders supporting Hancock County in Lake Ponchartrain levee battle
By Dwayne Bremer
Jan 29, 2013, 17:38
Mississippi's state and federal leaders have begun aligning themselves with Hancock County in its efforts to fight the proposed new Louisiana levee system.
Last month, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority (SLFPA) requested comments on its plan for the New Orleans East Land Bridge Study.
The study, in part, includes investigating the possibility of a 24-foot barrier levee which will close or partially close Lake Pontchartrain and protect the North Shore of St. Tammany Parish.
The Hancock County Board of Supervisors objected to the plan, saying it wanted more research done on the potential effects of the levee system.
Supervisors also asked state and federal officials to get involved, and asked Louisiana to be more transparent with with the process.
Last week, U.S. Rep Steven Palazzo sent a letter to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration asking that the agency conduct an in-depth study of the potential effects of new levee construction in southeast Louisiana.
In the letter, Palazzo asked NOAA to identify what impacts south Mississippians would feel if Lake Pontchartrain were closed off.
“I am working to ensure no further steps are taken until this matter can be thoroughly reviewed by an independent study," Palazzo said. "When you look at the potential impacts that levee construction in Louisiana might have in South Mississippi, it’s extremely concerning. The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act that passed in the House last week included provisions that would require a thorough analysis of mitigation efforts like the ones being proposed by Louisiana.”
In addition to Palazzo's efforts, Jackson County and the cities of Waveland and Bay St. Louis have all filed letters in support of Hancock County's objections.
State Rep. David Baria and state Sen. Philip Moran have also expressed a desire to support Hancock County.
"We just want to be kept in the loop and be a part of the process," Jackson County Board of Supervisors President Mike Mangum said Tuesday. "We are concerned and we want more information."
Local leaders expressed several concerns about potential levee construction, including additional storm surge for the levee barrier; potential changes in flood-plain maps and elevation requirements; and the unknown future affects of global warming.
In 2009, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers issued its technical report on the Louisiana Coastal Restoration Plan.
In its review, the Corps admitted the possibility of impacts to South Mississippi if new levees were built in South Louisiana. The new East Land Bridge study incorporates some of the same principals outlined in the LACRP. Officials at the Louisiana Coastal Restoration Authority did not respond to request for comments by press time Tuesday.