Nikki Buskey / Houma Courier

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a final report updating the cost, construction plan and environmental impacts of its $12.9 billion Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee project Friday.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, chief of engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, called the project 'economically justified, environmentally acceptable and engineeringly sound' in the proposed Chief's Report, which will be issued when the corps sends it to Congress, the secretary of the Army and the administration's Office of Budget and Management. The project must first go through a 30-day comment period, said Elaine Stark, a corps project manager. Members of the public along with state and federal agencies will have the opportunity to comment on the final report.

The environmental impact statement must also receive final approval from the corps. Stark said she expects the Chief's Report to be issued sometime this summer.

'Morganza is rolling its way out of the Corps of Engineers,' said Terrebonne Levee Director Reggie Dupre.

Morganza still faces Congressional approval, however. Authorization for the project is pending in the Water Resources Development Act, a water projects bill that passed the Senate but may face an uphill battle in the House of Representatives.

Congress must also allocate money to build the expensive levee project once it is approved.

Stark said she was proud that the corps was able to complete the report on time when facing difficult deadlines.

'Nobody ever lost sight of the goal to provide flood risk reduction for the people of Terrebonne and Lafourche,' she said.

Morganza is a system of levees, a lock on the Houma Navigation Canal and floodgates designed to protect Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes from storm flooding.

The corps estimates 53,000 structures will be protected by the project.

The report, started after Congress authorized the Morganza project in 2007, revises the construction standards and updates the costs of Morganza-to-the-Gulf.

The corps said the report was necessary because Morganza was going to exceed its then-projected cost of $886 million by more than 20 percent and because the project needed to be updated with newer, more-stringent levee-design standards enacted after 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

The report adds 26 additional miles of levees to Morganza, extending from U.S. 90 in Gibson to La. 1 in Lockport. Morganza would then include 98 miles of levees, a lock on the Houma Navigation Canal, 19 floodgates and 23 water-control structures.

Levees will be built up to 26.5 feet high, and flood-protection and water-control structures would be built more than 30 feet high, according to the report. Levee widths will range from 282 feet to 725 feet.

State and local officials must come up with 35 percent of the cost for the massive levee project, estimated between $3.6 billion and $4.5 billion. Upon its completion, the state and local partners will be responsible for operations and maintenance, currently estimated at about $7.4 million per year. The federal government will be responsible for operations and maintenance of the Houma Navigation Canal Lock at a cost of $1.7 million per year.

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