From: Cain Burdeau, Associated Press
Published February 24, 2006 12:00 AM

Powell Says Wetlands, Levees Vital to Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS — Building higher levees isn't the sole solution to protecting this city and the rest of low-lying south Louisiana from killer hurricanes, President Bush's adviser on Gulf Coast recovery said Thursday.

Other keys, Donald Powell said, are restoring wetlands, upgrading pumping capacities and strengthening existing flood defenses.

Powell made his comments at a summit about levees and their importance in rebuilding this hurricane-battered region. The summit was hosted by two regional business groups.

"Hurricane protection is a complex issue," Powell said. "It involves restoration, it involves wetlands, it involves canals, it involves pumping stations, it involves levees, it involves height."

But he pledged that whatever's needed will be done. He related how top engineers told him that once the Corps finishes its work it would be safe enough for his grandchildren to live in New Orleans.

"My grandchildren are perhaps the most important thing in my life," he said, "and I would not want them to be in harm's way for one second, and that's the reason I asked the question of those professionals, and to the person they said: 'Yes. Yes. Yes.'"

He repeated, however, the White House's position that it is too soon to say whether tens of billions of dollars should be spent on upgrading the state's levee system so it can handle Category 5 hurricanes, the strongest category of hurricanes.

The Corps is studying the options for upgrading the defenses, and Powell said the White House will wait for that study to be completed before it comments on whether major hurricane protection works are needed across the coast.

The study is expected to be done by the end of 2007.

The recovery czar, as Powell has been called, also stressed that "a lot of money" has already been appropriated to fix the damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The Corps has about $3 billion at its disposal to do that work and improve the defenses. Bush has also requested $1.4 billion more for coastal work, Powell noted.

Source: Associated Press

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