(NEW ORLEANS – September 2, 2015) In a landmark decision last week, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk of the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled in favor of the State of Louisiana, finding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) must pay the full $3 billion cost of restoring wetlands damaged by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). The MRGO Must Go Coalition – a group of 17 conservation and community organizations that successfully advocated for the shipping channel’s closure in 2009 –released the following statement:
“This ruling confirms that the Corps must pay for fixing the damage caused by the construction and mismanagement of the MRGO. Restoring the wetlands lost to the MRGO is critical to providing meaningful storm protection to the Greater New Orleans Region. We now call on Congress to fulfill its promise and fund this vitally important restoration work. The risks to public safety are far too grave to allow further delay.
”In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, in 2007 Congress directed the Corps to close the MRGO and restore the lost wetlands. Almost a decade later, the Corps still has not scratched the surface on MRGO restoration. We ask the Administration and Congress to work together with the Corps to pursue funding and to begin critical restoration work without further delay.
“Our Coalition hopes that the renewed national focus shed on southern Louisiana last week as part of Hurricane Katrina’s 10-year commemorative activities is a signal of commitment from the federal government to restore Louisiana’s wetlands, including those directly bordering New Orleans that were so severely damaged by the MRGO. Ten years later, the catastrophic damage caused in part by the MRGO during Hurricane Katrina is still visible in neighborhoods, such as the Lower 9th Ward and across St. Bernard Parish.
“While this ruling clearly affirms full federal coverage of construction costs for restoration of this ecosystem, the gravity of this situation requires all involved agencies, including the State of Louisiana, to do everything in their power to advance and complete MRGO restoration projects to the fullest extent possible. This includes leveraging all funding streams as they become available.
“Every day, the MRGO ecosystem further deteriorates, increasing risks to communities throughout the Greater New Orleans area. Congress will have a major role to play by providing vital funding to bring MRGO ecosystem restoration to fruition. Our member organizations will continue to hold the Administration and our Congressional leaders accountable for action on restoring Louisiana’s wetlands to better protect our communities. The communities and ecosystem torn apart by the MRGO have achieved a measure of justice with this recent ruling. We now look to leaders across government for action.”
MRGO Must Go Coalition Members: American Rivers, Citizens Against Widening the Industrial Canal, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Global Green-USA, Gulf Restoration Network, Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Levees.org, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, Mary Queen of Vietnam CDC, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club –Delta Chapter.