Louisiana lawmakers have issued a proposal that would create a nine-member independent commission to spearhead the development of a state-of-the-art flood control system in New Orleans. The plan calls for $40 billion of federal money to be turned over to the commission, which intends to streamline the process of hurricane-proofing the city to protect it against storms as strong as Category 5.

According to a report by the Associated Press (www.ap.org), turning such a huge sum of federal money to an independent rebuilding commission is unprecedented, but Louisiana lawmakers are hopeful their proposal will be given serious consideration in light of the extreme nature of the damage suffered by New Orleans at the hands of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

However, Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, commander of the Army Corp of Engineers, has said the agency could not develop a plan quickly to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane. This flies in the face of the main goal of the proposed commission, which supporters are touting as the quickest way to build a new flood control system in the city. Existing levees in New Orleans were designed to withstand a Category 3 storm, and Strock has said the studies alone that would be required to upgrade the system to Category 5 strength would take several years, with the actual construction many years beyond that.

Louisiana lawmakers and coastal resources experts disagree that it would take years to come up with a workable plan. They point to a detailed $14 billion coastal restoration plan, supported by virtually all interest groups, that is ready to go into place. It is designed to reduce hurricane damage by rebuilding disappearing coastal wetlands that help absorb storm surge.

— Flow Control Staff