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Louisiana seeking ways to lessen $3B flood-protection debt

Louisiana's first payment is due in August 2020, with $100 million estimated to be owed annually for 30 years.
Credit: Mario Tama
A woman walks atop an earthen levee on the Mississippi River in the Lower Ninth Ward as the Steamboat Natchez passes on August 26, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's estimated share of the costs for federal levee work in the New Orleans area has ballooned to $3 billion because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is charging interest on the debt.

Louisiana's first payment is due in August 2020, with $100 million estimated to be owed annually for 30 years.

State lawmakers are bristling at the near tripling of the cost estimate over a decade, particularly since the project that includes 350 miles of levees and 73 pump stations isn't finished. It has taken years longer than expected.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, Republican U.S. Rep. Garret Graves and other members of Louisiana's congressional delegation are searching for ways to reduce the price tag. But they've struck out so far, though negotiations continue with the Trump administration.