"To help better understand the needs of the non-federal sponsor and their willingness to work with the Corps, I'm urging the Corps to accompany the locals on a helicopter tour of the project study area," Vitter said. "The locally-preferred alignment would offer a lot more protection for a lot more people for basically the same price to the federal government."
Vitter is the top ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Corps.
The text of Vitter's letter to the Corps is below.
September 10, 2013
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
IMMEDIATE ATTENTION REQUESTED
Colonel Richard Hansen
District Commander and District Engineer
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - CEMVN
P.O. Box 60267
New Orleans, LA 70160
Dear Colonel Hansen:
I am writing to express my unequivocal support for the locally-preferred option (Alternative D) to construct the West Shore Hurricane Protection System. The recently-released Integrated Draft Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement clearly proves that Alternative D provides a more robust level of flood protection over the Army Corps of Engineers' (Corps') tentatively selected plan (Alternative C). While only slightly more costly that the Corps' plan, Alternative D would protect significantly more communities and structures, lower the number of impacted pipeline crossings, and nearly quadruple the protected miles of Interstate 10 - the main arterial highway evacuation route out of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area.
The Corps' decision to move forward with Alternative C seems to be based on two key factors: cost and encapsulation of wetlands. I strongly believe these justifications simply do not hold up under careful review.
The great majority of the marginal cost increases to construct the more-robust Alternative D will be the responsibility of the non-Federal sponsor, not the Corps. The non-Federal sponsor will be responsible for 35% of the $10 million difference between Alternatives C and D, leaving the Corps responsible for the remaining $6.5 million - a very small .7% of the total cost. The Corps has also pointed to the greater operating cost of Alternative D, but that is entirely born by the state and locals, and these partners are begging for the added responsibility. This is a small price to pay to better protect more communities in South Louisiana.
The state and local sponsors are also willing and eager to protect and maintain any wetlands encapsulated by the project, and are willing to work with the Corps to ensure environmental compliance. They have a proven and positive track record in this regard, specifically in managing nearby areas in St. John and St. James parishes.
To help better understand the needs of the non-Federal sponsor and their willingness to work with the Corps, I request that you accompany them on a helicopter tour of the project study area, preferably in the next 10 days but as soon as possible, and personally examine the benefits of Alternative D.
As you engage in the public comment review period and tour the project study area, I also strongly encourage you to maintain a strict schedule in achieving a signed Chief's Report in late 2014.
United States Senator