Press releases

Watch Kennedy’s remarks here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, today highlighted taxpayer interests at a subcommittee hearing focused on the Army Corps of Engineers.  

Excerpts include:

“Hurricane Katrina, as we all know, was a Cat Five hurricane. It hit New Orleans, August 29th, 2005—not just New Orleans, it hit all of south Louisiana. . . . It caused unprecedented losses. We had 1800 fatalities, $125 billion in damage. There was a 28-foot storm surge, 85-foot waves.”

. . .

“The Corps improved approximately 70 miles of interior risk reduction structures within the levee that encircles the New Orleans metropolitan region. Among the Corps’ technically advanced engineering solutions, HSDRRS [Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System] now includes a surge barrier wall that’s 1.8 miles long. It’s an engineering marvel. It’s the largest design build Civil Works project in your history, one of the—maybe the largest in America’s history.

“HSDRRS also includes the largest drainage pump station in the world. HSDRRS works and has already spared lives and property, saved taxpayers millions of dollars in my area from expensive storm recovery. Last year, Hurricane Ida hit us. Category Four storm. It hit southeast Louisiana. Its surge would have overtopped our levees before your good work.”

Kennedy also had the following exchange with Lieutenant General Scott A. Spellmon, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

Kennedy: “With the exception of a really small number of projects, less than one percent, is it not true that Congress doesn’t authorize construction of proposed Corps projects without a comprehensive study that can take up to years to complete, to determine if the project’s economically justified? Is that accurate?” 

Spellmon: “Yes, sir.”

Kennedy: “That study’s also got to show that the project’s environmentally sound, right?”

Spellmon: “Yes, sir, that’s correct.”

Kennedy: “Technically feasible, is that correct?”

Spellmon: “Yes, Senator.”

Kennedy: “So, somebody just can’t call you folks up at the Corps and say, ‘I’ve got a project, and I want it done, and you better get it done.’ It doesn’t work that way, does it?”

Spellmon: “That’s correct, Senator. It does not.”

Kennedy: “Alright. And, in your years at the Corps, what percentage of all Corps projects have been authorized for congressional—by Congress—for construction without meeting this three-part test?”

Spellmon: “Sir, I’ve been with the Corps six-and-a-half years. I’m not aware of any.”

Kennedy: “Any? Every project has had to be economically justified, environmentally sound, and technically feasible, based on any objective study?”

Spellmon: “Senator, that’s correct.”

Kennedy: “Not by politicians?”

Spellmon: “That’s correct.”

. . .

Kennedy: “Ok. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but one of the things that the Corps looks at in this study, which can take years, is whether the taxpayers are getting a return on their investment. In other words, the benefits have to substantially outweigh the costs. Is that right?”

Spellmon: “Yes sir, that’s correct.”

Video of Kennedy’s comments is available here.