WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and John Kennedy (R-LA), and U.S. Representative Clay Higgins (R-LA) are urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fully fund the Freshwater Bayou Lock in Vermilion Parish.
The Freshwater Bayou Lock provides access from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Intracoastal City for the offshore oil supply and commercial fishing industries. The lock usually ranks in the top 10 in the nation in terms of commercial lockage, and also serves as a mechanism for salinity control of the Mermentau Basin.
Proposed funding for Fiscal Year 2019 has been cut from $1.4 million to $759,000, which is an insufficient level of funding to provide the level of service mandated by the Inland Marine Transportation System (IMTS). Failure to fully fund the project could result in failure of the north gates, which would result in saltwater intrusion into the Mermentau and Vermilion Basin, affecting over 300,000 acres of farmland.
“The Freshwater Bayou Lock is crucial for offshore oil and commercial fishing industries, and the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Dr. Cassidy. “The Corps should restore adequate funding to maintain the lock and the Louisiana jobs it supports.”
“The Freshwater Bayou Lock serves a critical role for South Louisiana’s oil and gas, and shrimping industries,” said Higgins. “Securing full funding for the project will sustain the mandated level of service and allow necessary repairs to lock structures. We are heavily engaged in efforts to improve water management infrastructure in South Louisiana.”
“The Freshwater Bayou Lock needs to be operational 24/7 in order to properly function as a gateway to the Gulf of Mexico for offshore oil workers and fishermen,” said Kennedy. “Unfortunately, the current funding request shortchanges the lockage and would result in a reduction in operating hours. I am confident that this oversight will be fixed.”
The full text of the members’ letter is below.
Dear Secretary James and LTG Semonite,
We are writing to you today concerning the restoration of full funding for the Freshwater
Bayou Lock. As you know, the Freshwater Bayou Lock provides access from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Intracoastal City for the offshore oil supply and commercial fishing industries. Additionally, the lock serves as a mechanism for salinity control of the Mermentau Basin.
Freshwater Bayou Lock plays a critical role in our nation’s commerce, typically ranking in the top 10 nationwide in terms of commercial lockages. However, proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 funding for lock operations has been cut from $1.4 million to $759 thousand. $759 thousand is an insufficient amount to keep the Freshwater Bayou Lock operational year around and to fund all employee salaries. Without restoration of full funding Freshwater Bayou Lock will not be able to meet the level of service mandated by the Inland Marine Transportation Systems (IMTS) standards adopted Corps-wide and will be forced to drastically reduce its hours of operations.
Such a reduction in operations will not only negatively impact the economy, it will also disrupt the important national security mission of the United States Coast Guard. With the current international terror threats facing our nation, as well as the continued flow of narcotics into our borders, the negation of any disruption of the Coast Guard’ s activities in the Gulf of Mexico should be made a top priority for the Administration and Congress.
We look forward to continuing working with you on remedying this issue and ensuring that the Freshwater Bayou Lock is able to continue operating within its normal parameters.