Army Corps of Engineers

New Orleans is facing the 2013 hurricane season behind a $14 billion system designed to protect the region from a 100-year storm.

Life on the Mississippi River is a roller coaster of highs and lows: record high floodwaters one year, a drought and near-record low water levels the next. And those are just two of the many problems faced by river stakeholders like barge operators, farmers and conservation groups.

Those stakeholders met recently in Chicago to discuss the Mississippi's most pressing needs, any common ground, and how to speak with a unified voice in advocating for the nation's largest river system.

So far, that hasn't been easy.

Critical, Crumbling Lifeline

The Army Corps of Engineers has approved the third and final phase of the St. Charles west bank hurricane levee, which means all three phases of the levee project have corps approval to move toward construction.

At the St. Charles Parish Council meeting on Monday night, Parish President V.J. St. Pierre said the Corps of Engineers approved a permit green-lighting the design and construction of Phase III Ellington, the last permit necessary to authorize the project. The other two phases had already been approved.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Metro area residents probably know stories about consumers with big eyes and small wallets who become “house poor.” But in the years ahead they may become familiar with a new, more frightening term: “levee poor.”

cmh2315fl / Flickr

The Belle Chasse Tunnel is closing for a week for work to stop groundwater from leaking into the tunnel.

The Army Corps of Engineers says the tunnel will close overnight — from 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. — from Monday through Thursday. It will close 24 hours a day over the weekend, starting at 7 p.m. Friday and reopening at 5 a.m. on Monday, March 18.

The corps says more work will be needed to fully eliminate seepage, but the tunnel is expected to stay open after March 18.

The staff at the Calcasieu Lock could be cut by half within the next 18 months because less federal money could be allocated to its operation and maintenance, the Army Corps of Engineers says.

Lockmaster Kevin Galley told a ports group meeting this past week that traffic will experience slowdowns in going through the lock.

The Army Corps of Engineers says a federal levee designed to protect Terrebonne Parish and parts of Lafourche Parish from storm flooding will cost $12.9 billion. State and local officials would have to come up with 35 percent, or up to $4.5 billion.

The plan released Friday includes 36 additional miles of levee, extending the Morganza project from U.S. 90 in Gibson to Louisiana Highway 1 in Lockport.

The corps plans a meeting about it Jan. 31 at the Houma Municipal Auditorium.

Erin Krall / WWNO

The Port of New Orleans is keeping a close eye on Mississippi River drought conditions to the north. So far, the port is conducting business as usual.

A federal appeals court has reversed itself and thrown out a judge's landmark ruling that the Army Corps of Engineers is liable for billions of dollars in damage that property owners blame on its maintenance of a New Orleans shipping channel.

The same three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with plaintiffs earlier this year withdrew that decision Monday and ruled in the federal government's favor.

The panel's new opinion says the corps is completely insulated from liability by a provision of the Federal Tort Claims Act.

In the wake of major flooding during Hurricane Isaac, the St. John the Baptist Parish president is asking the Army Corps of Engineers to speed up plans for levees.

The Times-Picayune reports that Natalie Robottom has asked the corps to fast-track a decision on an alignment for a hurricane levee to protect the east banks of St. John and St. James parishes.

She recently went to Washington to make the parish's case.

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