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Ecosystem Restoration as Infrastructure–MRGO Part 6

MRGO at Bayou Yscloskey

MRGO at Bayou Yscloskey

In March 2007 the New Orleans Times-Picayune created a flow chart of the approval process for coastal restoration projects, actually for any large restoration project in any state.

The chart illustrated the bureaucratic roadblocks to ecosystem restoration.
A state, a county, or, in Louisiana, a parish identifies a project and asks its Congressional representation to initiate a Corps of Engineer feasibility study. Congress authorizes the study through a Water Resources Development Act or a separate bill, which must be passed by both houses and signed by the president. The money for the study can come from a Corps’ district office budget. Failing that it must come from the annual Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, which must be passed by both houses and signed by the president. That can take a year or two.
Then the Corps begins three studies: Is it worth doing–the Reconnaissance Study? Is it possible–the Feasibility Study? What’s its impact on the environment–the Environmental Impact Study?

Sometimes the feasibility study and the environmental impact study are rolled together. After all if the project is going to devastate the environment, it’s not feasible.

The studies go to the Chief of Engineers of the Corps, who recommends further action. If the Chief does not recommend the action, it goes to one of three agencies–the Secretary of the Army, the White House Office of Management and Budget, or the Council on Environmental Quality–which can order additional study or trash it. That can take two or three years.
If the Chief does recommend the project, it goes to Congress for authorization in the Water Resources Development Act, which must be passed by both houses and signed by the president. That can take two or more years, seven in the case of the 2007 WRDA.
Then the Corps begins engineering and design. That can take a year or two.
Then money for construction is doled out year by year in bills, which must be passed by both houses and approved by the president. That can take a year or two.
Then, construction begins. That can take years.

In October 2008 the Corps of Engineers published a fact sheet, http://mrgo.usace.army.mil/MRGO/FactSheet/MRGO%20Eco%20Restoration%20Factsheet%2010-17-08.pdf, on ecosystem restoration along MRGO in two parts.

Part 1 outlined the ecosystem restoration measures:

Freshwater, sediment, and nutrient introduction,

Wetlands protection, restoration, and creation,

Shoreine portection,

Bank stabilization,

Ridge protection and restoration,

Barrier island Protection and restoration,

Water control measures (gates, weirs, sills, plugs, fill areas, etc.),

Modificaiton of MRGO Porjects features (authorized and de-authorizaed),

Use of native vegetation,

Natural features with benefits for storm surge damage reduction,

Modification to authorized projects.

Part 2, titled MAJOR MILESTONES, was a schedule:

Publish Notice of Intent in Federal Register, Oct. 2008

Public Scoping Meetings, Nov 2008

Screen Inistial Array of Alternatives/Define Final Array, Dec 2008

Complete Preliminary Conseptual Design of Final Array, Mar 2009

Evaluate and Compare Final Array, Jul 2009

Identify Tentatively Seclected Plan, Au 2009

Complete Engineering and Design of Tentatively Selected Plan, Nov 2009

Cost Estimates Complete for Tentatively Selected Plan, Dec 2009

Draft Report and EIS Complete, Jan 2010

Internal Reviews Complete Mar 2010

Publish Notice of Avaialability for Draft Report and  EIS, May 2009

Public Meeting to Present Draft May 2010

Public Review/Comment Period(45 days), Jun 2010

Final Report/Eis Complete, TBD

Internal Review Complete, TBD

Publish Final Report and EIS, TBD

Period of Availablility (30 days), TBD

Chief of Engineers Signs Report, TBD

Headquarters Trasmits Report to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, TBD

Office of Management and Budget Provides Comments to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, TBD

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Signs Record of Decision, TBD.

Then the authorization and funding process begins.

It’s going to be a long time before MRGO, though closed, ceases to be a scar on the landscape.
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