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2 The Future Course of Action The authorizing legislation for the LACPR—P.L 109-103—was passed in November 2005. It directed the Corps to “present a full range of flood control, coastal restoration, and hurricane protection measures.” It also requested the Corps to “conduct a comprehensive hurricane pro- tection analysis and design,” implying that Congress expected a proposal for implementation—not just a list of possibilities—by the end of 2007. For its part, the LACPR team has interpreted its project authority as re- quiring it to present only a range of plans. The LACPR has not pro- posed, and apparently does not intend to propose, a single plan or a pre- ferred initial course of action. This means that actions for improving hurricane storm surge protection for southern Louisiana will be further delayed. A Dutch planning team, with modest support from the U.S. Army, conducted its own planning study and issued a 2007 report that included a comprehensive conceptual design for restoration and hurricane protec- tion (Dijkman, ed., 2007). Although that study may not necessarily rep- resent an optimal approach to restoration and protection, it is an example of a clear proposal with a long-term vision on which immediate actions can be based. Furthermore, it appears to be a reasonable effort to address the congressional directive. The LACPR took a different approach, pro- ducing a report with no actionable project recommendations. To design a program for integrated hurricane protection and restora- tion measures for coastal Louisiana clearly is a complex task. Neverthe- less, Congress and the citizens of Louisiana look to the Corps of Engi- neers and the LACPR for leadership and direction on these issues, and it is incumbent upon the LACPR team to provide advice on future strategic direction and actions. These points were alluded to in this committee’s 2008 report, which stated, “Unless some advice regarding promising ini- tial projects for ecosystem restoration, hurricane protection, and buyouts and relocations is provided, the LACPR planning effort will fall short of 11
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12 Second Review of LACPR Draft Report its potential to offer science-based, analytical advice on hurricane protec- tion and coastal ecosystem restoration.” Whatever the ultimate intent of Congress in the 2006 legislation, and whatever the Corps' interpretation of its authority, it is clear that there is no preferred plan, or even any part of a preferred plan in the LACPR draft final technical report. Nor does the draft final technical report sug- gest clear priorities for initial restoration, structural, and nonstructural projects and activities. Moreover, in part because of deficiencies in the LACPR methodology for ranking alternatives, there is no reason to think that any of the 27 alternative planning unit-level plans listed by the Corps can be described as a preferred plan. The authorizing legislation for the LACPR study called for a final technical report to be submitted within 24 months—or in November 2007. The LACPR report, however, still is in draft form as of mid-2009. It is important that the LACPR report be completed with due speed. Any recommendation for a date on which the report should be completed will include a degree of judgment and opinion. In this committee’s view, the submission of a final report by the end of 2009 would strike a balance between allowing for additional time to finalize the document while at the same time encouraging the Corps and the State of Louisiana to move quickly to agreement on next steps. The lack of a comprehensive long-term hurricane protection and coastal restoration plan, and the lack of advice on initial high- priority steps and projects, represent substantial shortcomings of the LACPR draft final technical report. Before the end of 2009, the Corps of Engineers and the State of Louisiana should agree on the elements of a single comprehensive plan for long-term hurricane protection and coastal restoration. As part of that plan, the Corps and the state should agree on a number of high-priority projects for immediate implementation.