Stop the Lock - Tell Congress to defund a dangerous canal project in New Orleans

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We must stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' dangerous plan to expand the Industrial Canal.

I'm Patsy. Since 1978, I have lived in the shadow of a 100-year-old bridge and canal separating my Holy Cross neighborhood from the rest of New Orleans. During Hurricane Katrina, I had decided to stay on the second floor of my house along with my pets - cats, dogs, birds and turtles - when the canal wall broke, causing 10-feet of water to surge from two directions through the streets. I looked at a framed poster of Noah’s Ark and I thought: "40 days and 40 nights.” My son took our pirogue and rescued animals that had been stranded when owners evacuated.

When we realized city services were nonexistent, we drove out with the animals, staying in Michigan for three months before being allowed to return. That’s when my health problems began. Fourteen years later, after so much struggle, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is announcing a plan to enlarge the canal and lock, putting our homes at risk again.

The 13-year, $1 billion project would only benefit shipping companies. By moving the lock 12 blocks further into the neighborhood, the higher water table from the Mississippi River would put tremendous pressure on the levee walls beside private homes.

The historic bridge will be destroyed and its massive concrete base dynamited. Constant pounding to install pilings will shatter the foundations of nearby Victorian-era shotgun homes. New bridge ramps will extend further into the neighborhood, homes will be seized and torn down through eminent domain.

Toxic sediment lying at the bottom of the Industrial Canal will be unearthed, not far from a brand new public high school. A 1997 McKnight study proved there are carcinogenic materials remaining from World War I era that would be disturbed without a safe disposal plan, raising public health risks. 

Needless to say, commercial investment in our neighborhood will come to a complete stop. Property values will plunge and traffic to and from New Orleans will be permanently stalled. Both bridges will be up for longer periods, simultaneously. Fifty thousand people who live east of the canal who need to travel over the bridges will require at least an extra 20-30 minutes each direction. Traffic will be backed up for blocks.

All this dislocation so that two barges can travel through the canal at the same time! The Corps refuses to consider other sites in more rural areas where there is less traffic and human habitation. To add insult to injury, if the walls were to burst again, the government would not  be liable for damages; homeowners bear all the risk. 

A billion dollars is a lot of money, especially in Louisiana, where we could use those badly needed funds to rebuild our eroding coast. Residents of the Lower Ninth Ward and Bywater want Congress to defund the lock expansion. project in the Lower Ninth Ward to save our lives and community.

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