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Officials Reduce Major Levee Project Price Tag, Hope To Entice Federal Funding

The Morganza to the Gulf hurricane levee project would protect several communities along the central Louisiana coast.

Local officials hope a major levee project along the central Louisiana coast is one step closer to receiving federal funding.

Morganza to the Gulf is a 98-mile levee project that, if completed, would curl around several communities and protect them from hurricane storm surges. It’s one of the biggest and most expensive projects in Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan.

So far, only local money has been spent on the project. Federal funding will likely be needed to complete the project and bring it up to federal protection standards. That was estimated to cost about $10.3 billion in 2014. Congress has several times authorized the project, but has not yet sent any money to the state.

In order to make Morganza to the Gulf more enticing to the feds, local officials have spent several months looking for ways to make it cheaper.

“That was the bottom-line assignment,” says Mark Wingate, Deputy District Engineer for Project Management at the New Orleans office of the Army Corps of Engineers, “Can we reduce project costs?”

Wingate says the Army Corps, as well as state and levee district officials, spent months working to reduce the price tag to the $5.5 - $6 billion range. Wingate made the announcement at the monthly meeting of the Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority Board meeting.

Officials will meet with Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves on Thursday to start talking about next steps.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and local listeners.

As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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