GRETNA, La. -- Nearly one month after Hurricane Isaac flooded areas outside the levee protection system, a U.S. Senate field hearing sought answers on Tuesday from the state, FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers and area parish presidents.
'In Jefferson Parish, we have communities that are outside the levee protection system and they flooded,' said Jefferson Parish President John Young.
Sen. Mary Landrieu convened the field hearing in Gretna, along with Sen. David Vitter and Rep. Cedric Richmond. Landrieu pointed out that the corps' annual, new construction budget for the entire country amounts to only $1.6 billion.
'There is a tremendous urgent, dangerous gap between the needs of the United States for flood protection and the budget supporting it,' said Landrieu, D-Louisiana.
However, the Army Corps of Engineers said they can only do work that the federal government funds.
'The reality of the situation is we rarely receive sufficient funding to prosecute them to our full capacity -- simply because the nation is in a position where we can't fund everything that everyone wants,' said Major Gen. John Peabody of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Local parish presidents remain frustrated after seeing communities flood during Hurricane Isaac, which had not flooded in previous storms.
'It's critical,' said St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom. 'We're the next open slot.'
With that said, Landrieu and others are calling for an expansion of the federal hurricane protection system across coastal Louisiana and are asking for more input from the state.
For its part, the state said it is already working on specific projects, such as a section of the Morganza to the Gulf project.
'The state is doing more now with levee districts -- with state funding from the Governor and Legislature -- than any other time in our state's history,' said Garret Graves, chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
Landrieu said they are currently working on figuring out exactly how much it would cost to expand the hurricane protection system, adding that it is expected to cost billions of dollars.