The Army Corps of Engineers has unveiled a $2.9 billion plan to restore the environmental damage caused by the construction and operation of the now-closed Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet. The plan includes:
- a new freshwater diversion near Violet
- restoration of cypress swamp in wetlands adjacent to the Lower 9th Ward,
Algiers and Chalmette
- protection of shorelines along the eastern New Orleans land bridge
- restoration or nourishment of wetlands along Lake Borgne
If approved, the project would take 10 years to complete, with construction beginning as early as 2012. It would restore, nourish or protect about 92 square miles of wetlands and land.
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Congress ordered the corps to develop a plan after deauthorizing the MR-GO as a navigation channel in 2007. This plan still must clear a variety of major hurdles, including whether Louisiana would be required to pay 35 percent of the cost of most of the projects. Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves, the state's senior coastal official, notified the corps in August that the state believes the federal law authorizing the restoration plan requires that the federal government pay 100 percent of all costs.
Unlike other corps planning documents, which require Congress to vote to authorize the project and then hold a separate vote, often years later, to appropriate money for construction, Congress already has authorized the MR-GO restoration and need only begin appropriating money for its construction.
There are a lot of hurdles to overcome in order for this plan to come to fruition all of them spelled out here, but it's a start.