A new water bill that has passed through both houses of Congress could be a help to local flood protection projects.

Though the bill won’t inject any money directly into ongoing projects, it does contain a framework for improving the process, something that could help our vital projects be built much sooner than without it.

“On our current trajectory, the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) will finish its $100 billion of backlogged, federally authorized projects approximately never,” U.S. Rep. Garrett Graves, R-Baton Rouge, said earlier this week in a news release. “We have to stop pushing paper and start turning dirt. Fundamental changes are needed, and this bill begins moving us in that direction.

“There are literally tens of billions of dollars in authorized Corps of Engineers projects in Louisiana. If we are going to restore our coast and protect our communities, we must change the way these projects are developed and delivered.”

And that is where the federal agency’s focus should be – making communities and their people safer. The bill should put it on the right path. It contains several requirements and provisions that should improve the corps’ ability to perform its vital role. Among those will be taking some of its responsibilities out of the Department of Defense, where they are not the priorities they should be.

Unfortunately, because of chronic money shortages and internal bureaucratic shortcomings, the corps has long been more of a hindrance than a help for local projects, most notably the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane-protection system.

If it is ever built to its planned scale, it should dramatically improve our local flood protection. Unfortunately, it has never gotten the federal help it will need to become a reality.

Local and state tax dollars have allowed a smaller version of the system to be built – itself an impressive testament to what can be done by people and governments that refuse to sit idly by and watch as the feds fail to act.

But for Morganza to carry the impact it should have, it will require billions of dollars in investment, something that will likely have to happen at the federal level.

This bill should improve a system that has long needed reform. The corps is strapped for money and trapped within a federal department where it doesn’t really belong.

Let us all hope this bill is a good step forward.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.