Jeremy Alford

Nearly $50 million at stake in energy vote

by Jeremy Alford

There’s $17 million worth of earmarks for the Atchafalaya Basin in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill recently passed by the U.S. House, but there’s no final decision yet on what the Senate is willing to pony up. That figure, however, could be formalized within the next seven to 14 days. Aaron Saunders, spokesperson for Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, says a vote on the Senate version is expected sometime before the regular August break. “It’s still up in the air right now, but it could come up in next few days or weeks,” he says.

As it passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Upper Chamber’s version includes $33 million for flood control, navigation, and ecosystem maintenance in the Atchafalaya Basin. Landrieu says it’s a “good start,” but not nearly enough to cover the region’s true needs. “There are still many more projects to fund, and federal, state and local governments must work together to channel resources to the most essential projects,” she says.

The House-passed energy and water bill has $5.8 million for levee improvements in the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway from Old River to the Gulf of Mexico and $11.6 million for the dredging of the navigational channel on the Atchafalaya River and bayous Chene, Boeuf and Black. It was approved by lawmakers last week.

Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, who attached more than $22 million worth of earmarks to the bill, including those for the basin, says the local additions should have an economic appeal for Acadiana. “The federal funding I requested will also support businesses in our state — particularly the oil and gas industry — by ensuring they have navigable waterways connecting inland ports with the Gulf of Mexico,” he says.

Once the Senate agrees to its final version, both chambers will hammer out a compromise — hopefully — that should reconcile the two sets of figures. Robin Winchell, Melancon’s communications director, says both Landrieu and junior Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, are coordinating on the local amendments.