Serving the engineering needs of south Louisiana is a task so monumental that it can only be performed by the U.S. Army. We meet the daily challenges associated with protecting the region from hurricane & storm damage, facilitating navigation along the Mississippi River, and simultaneously working to protect and restore the fragile and disappearing ecosystem that houses the water resources we manage.
The Protection Restoration Office (PRO) manages the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) levee and floodwall projects in Jefferson and St. Charles Parishes and the West Bank as well as the floodgate and pump station projects, along with levee and floodwall projects on the East Bank in Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes.
Our first priority is public safety! Since the catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, system repair and improvements have made the current hurricane and storm damage risk reduction system stronger than ever before. Read more about “100-year protection” and what it means here.
The greater New Orleans area faces a triple threat when it comes to sources of flood risk: the Mississippi River, rain and hurricane storm surge. In addition to the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System, we have implemented a number of critical flood control projects. The Bonnet Carrè Spillway, located 28 miles above New Orleans, is the southernmost floodway in the Mississippi River & Tributaries system. Located on the east bank in St. Charles Parish, it can divert a portion of the river's floodwaters via Lake Pontchartrain into the Gulf of Mexico, thus allowing high water to bypass New Orleans and other nearby river communities. Additionally, we administer the Southeastern Louisiana Urban Flood Damage Reduction Project (SELA), in which we support the master drainage plans of four parishes (counties) and generally provide flood risk reduction on a level associated with a ten-year rainfall event.
We also keep the Mississippi River on course. The Corps built and maintains the Old River Control complex, on the river northwest of Baton Rouge, which prevents the Mississippi from changing its course to the Atchafalaya Basin. The Corps’ Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System (ABFS) project is helping flood control and the environment by the purchase of easements that will ultimately total 338,000 acres. This Corps project is also creating water management units to restore flows for wildlife, and acquiring 50,000 acres to provide public access for recreation.
Promoting navigation and facilitating waterborne commerce for America’s largest port complex
The lower Mississippi River serves America’s largest-tonnage port complex, with four of the nation’s top 15 ports shoulder-to-shoulder. We maintain 2,800 miles of navigable waterways along the Mississippi, including 400 miles of deep-draft channel. We operate 12 navigation locks to serve these waterways. Maintaining these channels requires a great deal of dredging. In 2006, the New Orleans District dredged 44 million cubic yards, or 39 percent of all dredging by the Corps nationwide. Read more about navigation here.
Protecting and Restoring Louisiana’s Coast
Since the 1930s, coastal Louisiana has lost more than 1,875 square miles (1.2 million acres). That’s an area about 25 times the size of Washington, D.C. While the typical land loss rate is about 24 square miles per year, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita eliminated 217 square miles of coastal wetlands in less than one month.
The rapid erosion of Louisiana’s coast puts some of the nation’s critical assets and natural resources at risk. The southern coastal area is home to nearly half the state’s population, one-third of the fish (by weight) commercially harvested in the lower 48 states, and five of the 15 busiest ports (by tonnage) in the United States. In addition, nearly 25 percent of all the oil and gas consumed in America and 80 percent of the nation's offshore oil and gas travel through coastal Louisiana. As wetlands erode, the infrastructure that transports the nation’s energy supply becomes increasingly susceptible to storm damage.
A contributing factor to Louisiana’s land loss is the change in sediment load carried by the Mississippi River. Sediment deposits historically formed natural levees and barrier islands that served as south Louisiana’s first line of defense against hurricane damage. As we build dams in states as far away as North Dakota to provide electricity, irrigation and flood protection, we impact the level of sediment carried downstream by the river and deposited in the Delta Region.
Given the national implications of coastal land loss and the shared accountability for it, the federal government plays a major role in protecting and restoring Louisiana’s coast. The agency best suited to carry out that responsibility is the Corps. Read more about the Louisiana Coastal Area Projects here.