‘All Bets Are Off’
The Corps is self-performing most of the work on the top 10, using existing construction crews or pulling people off its mat-sinking unit, so contractors aren't really seeing a lot of new work from flood repairs, says Freddie Rush, executive vice president, Mississippi Valley Branch of the Associated General Contractors of America. Additionally, Rush's member contractors are worried the Corps will pull the plug on ongoing projects, particularly work on the Greater New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System in New Orleans.
“At our last quarterly meeting with Corps [Mississippi Valley Division] staff members, we were assured that wouldn't happen,” Rush says. Yet he already has seen closure of some harbor ports because so much silt was deposited from the spring floods, and the Corps doesn't have money to dredge.
“Our commanding general is telling states to be forewarned: Nothing is sacred,” Whitney says. “This will affect projects across the country as they become donors to this emergency.”
Louisiana's Zeringue is hoping Congress will set aside funds for MR&T repairs before Louisiana's other Corps projects are adversely affected. “The Army Corps is subject to robbing some of those funds to be used for the MR&T system,” Zeringue says. “We believe it shouldn't, but who knows? All bets are off. Until a project is complete, anything is susceptible to consequences of funding loss.”
Rush is hoping Congress will pass appropriations before the congressional Supercommittee acts. The AGC has encouraged members to urge their representatives and senators to pass funding as soon as possible. “So many in Congress have been elected on the basis of cutting back on spending or doing away with earmarks,” Rush says. “I know the Corps is struggling because they don't have funding, but Congress is ultimately responsible. And the Corps has told us it is not just about the MR&T but a national picture.”
Womack believes that assessing the MR&T's needs in the context of all the nation's hazards is the right approach.
“The tendency in this country is to spend money on the last big disaster,” Womack says. “The cost to repair the system is going to be very high.” However, while Mississippi River flooding is on Mississippi's top-five list for disaster planning, he notes the state lost 35 lives to tornadoes in 2011. “Certainly we have a terrorism risk, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. We, as a nation, have to look at the threat of Mississippi River flooding along with all the other threats and realize we can't spend all of our money on one particular hazard.”
|BPNM Floodway—Make safe and stable||MRL||MVM||Mo.||Mississippi||$18,500|
|City of Cairo||MRL||MVM||Ill.||Alexander||$3,000|
|Cairo parcel 5||MRL||MVM||Ill.||Alexander||$7,000|
|Above Cairo parcel 2a—Relief Wells||MRL||MVM||Ill.||Alexander||$1,500|
|Above Cairo parcel 2a||MRL||MVM||Ill.||Alexander||$5,500|
|Duncan Point||MRL||MVN||La.||E. Baton Rouge||$8,850|
|Baton Rouge front||MRL||MVN||La.||E. Baton Rouge||$1,762|
|PHASE 1: TOTAL CONSTRUCTION FUNDING RECEIVED||$75,868|
|FEATURE CODES: MRL=MISSISSIPPI RIVER LEVEE, CI=Channel Improvements CORP DISTRICTS: MVM=MEMPHIS DISTRICT,MVK=VICKSBURG DISTRICT, MVN=New orleans DISTRICT SOURCE: USACE.|