Friday, February 17, 2006



Levee Board reshuffling of deck chairs

Capitol news bureau

The Senate backed the package without dissent Tuesday. The 12-day special session ends at 6 p.m. today.

The proposal would set up two boards to regulate levee operations in the New Orleans area and nearby parishes. An 11-member panel would regulate levees and flood control in all or parts of seven parishes just east of the Mississippi River. The other would oversee storm protection in parts of two parishes west of the river.

Both levee panels would include engineers, hydrologists and other experts.Critics contend that existing patronage-laden boards — they are generally filled with appointees recommended by state lawmakers — played a role in flooding after Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29.

Boasso, Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other supporters initially tried to put flood control oversight in eight parishes under one panel. They said the one-panel push is crucial for the state to show the federal government that Louisiana is willing to clean up flood-control problems that contributed to the disaster.

That effort crumbled on Sunday night amid complaints that the east and west banks of New Orleans have different problems that require different regulatory boards.

Boasso agreed to do so but added a new twist. Under the compromise, both panels will be put under the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which backers hope will satisfy a federal demand that the state’s revamped storm protection network operate under one office.

Under the plan, board members would be named by the governor from nominations submitted by engineering groups; officials of LSU, the University of New Orleans and Tulane University; the Council for a Better Louisiana; and the Public Affairs Research Council.

The package includes Senate Bill 8, which is a change in state law, and Senate Bill 9, which puts the changes in the state constitution. If the plan wins final approval, Louisiana voters would decide the issue, likely on Sept. 30.

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