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Context of 'October 2, 2002: Louisiana Senator Warns Congress of New Orleans’ Vulnerability to Major Hurricane'

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Speaking before her colleagues in the Senate, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) warns that a Category 4 hurricane could wreak massive destruction on Southern Louisiana. She urges Congress to provide sufficient funding for Southern Louisiana flood control projects to mitigate this danger. “I must take this opportunity to bring to light what is at stake when a hurricane or storm takes aim on the Louisiana coast. Not only is the safety, lives and property of Louisiana residents at risk the nation’s critical energy infrastructure and energy supply as well as crucial conservation measures are in danger. Tropical Storm Isidore should serve as a wake-up call to the federal government, which must do more to protect the nation’s resources in Louisiana. Because the City of New Orleans is below sea level and surrounded by levees, every drop of rain that lands there must be pumped out. This important job is accomplished by local, state, and federal agencies working together to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place and working much of this work is done by the US Army Corps of Engineers. However, in the President’s budget request submitted to Congress this year, funding for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Project, (SELA), was cut by an astonishing 50 percent (see 2001-Early 2004). The SELA flood control project is a smart investment. By investing in these flood control projects, we could prevent the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars that will otherwise be spent in federal flood insurance claims and other disaster assistance programs. Fortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee understands this investment and has approved an increase for this project, which will allow the construction already underway to continue. However, this is not enough. I urge the administration to rethink its priorities and to include sufficient funding for the SELA project in its budget request for fiscal year 2004.… Louisiana’s rapidly eroding wetlands are invaluable in absorbing the surge of storm events like [Hurricane] Isidore. Without them, one can only imagine the damage a hurricane could wreak on South Louisiana and the nation’s energy infrastructure.” [US Congress, 9/30/2002, pp. S9562]

Entity Tags: Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, US Army Corps of Engineers, Mary L. Landrieu

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La) urges Congress to protect and rebuild Louisiana wetlands, which would buffer the impact of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans. She also informs her colleagues of the need to improve the region’s transportation infrastructure so residents would be able to safely flee the city in case of a hurricane. “We are telling you and begging this Senate and this Congress to recognize benefits Louisiana provides to the nation. Louisiana is proud of that, but we need extra federal help to secure this marshland, to help rebuild it, and protect us. If Louisiana does not receive help the wetlands will disappear, and the people of Louisiana will be sitting ducks for future floods and storms.… While we are making progress, we have a long way to go. So whether it is at the energy conference, where I hope we will have a positive outcome, or in the new transportation bill where we can talk about the highways and evacuation routes in south Louisiana and the Gulf South need our attention. Not only do they serve as economic highways that are really necessary for commerce to flourish, but, as you know, when the hurricanes come, it is the only way for people to flee the storm. We don’t have trains, as people do in the Northeast, to get out of harm’s way. All we have in Louisiana are highways dangerously crowded with automobiles and pickup trucks. We need to make sure people can get north to higher ground…” [US Congress, 10/2/2002, pp. S9834]

Entity Tags: Mary L. Landrieu

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) warns colleagues in Senate that US must invest in flood control projects in Louisiana in order to avert a major natural disaster in the event of a hurricane making landfall in Southern Louisiana. “I want to speak this morning about what we can do here in Washington a little better, with a little more energy, with a little more focus to help the people in Louisiana and throughout the gulf coast area. Not only do they deserve our help, but because of the energy industry and the economic benefits they bring to the whole country, they not only need our help, they deserve our help. They deserve our attention…. We are talking about severe devastation when a Category 3 or Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane pushes that water out of the gulf, out of Lake Pontchartrain into the tremendously populated areas around the gulf coast.… We are in Iraq, in an important battle, but part of our objective there is to secure an oil supply for the region and for the Nation and to use that for the betterment of the people of Iraq, for their growth and development and the security and stability of the world, as well as to fight for other issues. We are fighting to get 1 to 3 million barrels out of Iraq, and right here in the Gulf of Mexico, today, we have a facility that has virtually been shut down because of a hurricane. Nearly a million barrels is being imported in this country, and exported, a year.… My point is, I hope we will again use this opportunity to focus on the critical infrastructure needs necessary for Louisiana and the gulf coast of Mississippi and Alabama primarily to protect itself not just from homeland security threats from terrorists but real threats of weather.… Yet time and time again, when Louisiana comes to ask, ‘Could we please have just a portion of the revenue that we send?’—we are not asking for charity; we are asking for something we earned; we are happy to share with the rest of the country to help invest in infrastructure—we are told: We cannot do it this year. We do not have enough money. It is not a high enough priority.… Well, I do not know when it is going to get to be a high enough priority. I hate to say maybe it is going to take the loss thousands of lives on the Gulf Coast to make this country wake up and realize in what we are under-investing.… We also have a bill through the WRDA legislation, which is the traditional funding for the Corps of Engineers, the federal agency primarily responsible to keep the waterways dredged, to keep the levees up as high as possible, to work with our local flood control folks, particularly our levee boards in Louisiana, which are some of the most important public entities we have, that literally keep people dry from heavy rains and from floods and storms of this nature.… We need our federal government to understand that we are happy to share our resources and riches with the world, but we do deserve a greater portion of these revenues to keep our people safe, to keep our infrastructure intact, and, most certainly, to be respectful of what the people of Louisiana and the entire gulf coast contribute to our national well-being and security. .. [A]s a Senator representing the State of Louisiana, the chances of it happening sometime are pretty good. If we do not improve our transportation evacuation routes, invest in protecting this infrastructure, and focusing on reinvesting some of the tremendous wealth that has been taken from this area, and reinvesting it back, we will only have ourselves to blame.” [US Congress, 9/15/2004, pp. S9257-S9260]

Entity Tags: Mary L. Landrieu, US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La) appears on CNN to discuss the challenges to evacuating Southeastern Louisiana. Landrieu first notes, “[W]e don’t have enough highways.… We have urged the federal government to stay focused on helping us to expand our highway infrastructure just for this purpose.… We don’t, literally, have enough highways to get people out.” Landrieu also describes the challenges to an evacuation of New Orleans: “About 30 percent of the population doesn’t have access to an automobile or owns an automobile. So they’ve got to count on extended families or friends or neighbors. The evacuation of the elderly is always a challenge of course and those that are in hospitals. The mayor is working and has been working diligently on that plan. Hopefully it will be carried out,” although, she notes, 3,000 of Louisiana’s National Guard are in Iraq and thus unable to assist in the evacuation. [CNN, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana National Guard

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Mary Landrieu (D-La) and David Vitter (R-La) send a joint letter to President Bush. After thanking Bush for the early declaration of emergency and for his public comments urging residents to flee Hurricane Katrina, the senators urge Bush “respectfully but in the strongest possible terms to tour the devastated area as soon as practical,” to reassure the affected residents that federal agencies will help the area recover. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: David Vitter, Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush, Mary L. Landrieu

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

From the Baton Rouge emergency center, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) issues a statement regarding Hurricane Katrina, commending local officials and Governor Blanco for their work. “Unfortunately, the reverberations of this storm will be felt not only in Louisiana but across the nation.” Blanco also reiterates her appeal for protection of Louisiana’s wetlands: “Our port system provides the nation with the transportation needs for our country’s economy while our coastline provides the energy for our homes and industries. And Louisiana’s unique wetlands provide our state with a buffer zone from natural disasters such as hurricanes. But our wetlands have been eroding. As I have said before, in order for us to protect America’s energy supply and transportation needs, the federal government must join with the people of Louisiana to preserve America’s wetlands.” [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Mary L. Landrieu

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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