February 26, 2007

Whitehouse to New Orleans: We Have Not Forgotten You

Stresses Need to Rebuild to Mitigate Impact of Future Serious Storms

New Orleans, La. – Vibrant coastal cities from Louisiana to Rhode Island are still at great risk from major natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina unless we strengthen the infrastructure that shields them, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said today.

Whitehouse traveled to New Orleans with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and a delegation of members of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee for a field hearing to study comprehensive approaches to coastal wetlands restoration, hurricane and storm damage protection, and debris waste management following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who chairs the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery, joined the committee for its review.

Whitehouse also took part in a Blackhawk helicopter flyover of neighborhoods damaged by the storm and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects to upgrade flood and storm protection systems. The aerial tour began at Jackson Barracks and traveled over St. Bernard Parish, the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO), the Lower 9th Ward, and the outfall canals at Orleans Avenue, 17th Street, and London Avenue.

“We came to New Orleans with this message: we have not forgotten you,” Whitehouse said, after noting that President Bush failed to even mention Katrina or New Orleans in this year’s State of the Union Address. “This morning, we flew over neighborhoods that were completely destroyed – and today have yet to be rebuilt. I would hate to think of neighborhoods in Rhode Island looking like what I have seen today, nearly a year and a half after a storm. We have an obligation to rebuild devastated cities and maintain facilities that protect them. And we need to get this right, so our coastal cities in Rhode Island and throughout the nation never again experience the devastation I witnessed today.”

The Committee hearing was held in the Louisiana Supreme Court building on Royal Street in downtown New Orleans. Witnesses included Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) John Paul Woodley; General Don Riley, Army Corps of Engineers; and Richard Green, Environmental Protection Agency Region 6; as well as Louisiana officials and environmental justice advocates.

In his opening statement Whitehouse noted that Rhode Island has itself experienced major hurricanes, and remains vulnerable to rising sea levels from storm surges and climate change. Last month, at EPW’s first hearing, Whitehouse delivered a presentation on the potential impact of global warming on Rhode Island, including visual demonstrations of the effect a 20-foot rise in sea level could have in Providence, Newport, and Barrrington.


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