Third Time the Charm for a New Lock in New Orleans’ Industrial Canal?

New Orleans Industrial Canal
New Orleans Industrial Canal. Courtesy USACE

If there is one thing that the Corps of Engineers loves to do is continue resurrecting projects that have been shown unnecessary or environmentally harmful. Maybe that is a little uncharitable, as the Corps does do a lot of great work, but it is frustrating to see that a project that we and our partners beat back two other times has once again reared its ugly head.

A little history: back in 1998 the Corps decided to replace the lock, and widen and deepen the canal, despite the fact that the dredged material would be laden with harmful chemicals that have accumulated over the years. Due to a legal challenge, the courts stopped the Corps for continuing with the project until they adequately showed that they prepared an adequate Environmental Impact Statement.

Fast-forward to 2007. The Corps came out with a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Once again, we challenged this in court, as they did not take a hard look at the impacts of the project. The courts agreed, stating that the Corps did not adequately look at impacts of the project, as well as alternatives to the proposed plan. This is backed up by a report issued by Taxpayers for Common Sense. You can get a PDF copy of the report here

So now, the Corps has come out with a second Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, and they are just beginning public meetings. Here is the meeting info:

Public Scoping Meeting
Wednesday, Feb 4, 2015
6:00 pm
Location: Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School, 1617 Caffin Ave., New Orleans, LA 70117

This scoping meeting is a chance for the public to raise potential impacts of the project, as well as alternatives that should be explored.

Potential issues we see include:

  • They are relying on an Impact Statement that is 12 years old. They should not just be supplementing that outdated report. They should complete a new Environmental Impact Statement
  • There needs to be an updated cost-benefit analysis to determine the necessity of the project. Is the project necessary?
  • Community impacts must be assessed.
  • Where will the contaminated dredged sediment be disposed of?
  • How will this impact the flood risk of the surrounding communities, including evacuation routes?
  • Alternatives should include a no-build alternative, as well as an alternative that would not widen or deepen the lock.

Since this is just in the scoping phase, we do not know what exactly they will be proposing. Hopefully this time they will listen to the community and adequately justify any impacts this project might have.

Written comments will also be accepted until February 18, 2015. They can be sent to:

Mr. Mark Lahare, CEMVN-PDC-CEC
PO Box 60267
New Orleans, LA 70160-0267

You can read our comments on the 2007 proposal here

Matt is GRN’s Senior Policy Director

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