Corps Lawsuit Likely

High-ranking state officials have been inserting talking points into their responses on recent coastal lawsuits that position the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as one of the real culprits behind delayed projects and wetlands loss.

And now we know why, as The Advocate's Jeff Adelson reported last week:

Even as the battle over a lawsuit against oil and gas companies raged throughout the day at a local levee authority’s meeting, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s top coastal official hinted Thursday that the state might be readying its own coastal-erosion suit against a much different target — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In a presentation attacking the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s lawsuit, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves spent nearly as much time blasting the corps for its alleged contribution to wetland losses as he did criticizing the authority’s contract with its attorneys. Asked about that focus after the meeting, Graves would not go into details, saying, “I don’t want to disclose our legal strategy.”

In an interview with LaPolitics.com a few days earlier, Graves touched upon the same themes:

When you look across the spectrum, the attribution of coastal land loss over the last 80 years, the largest single component without question, is the Army Corps of Engineers’ river management, the leveeing of the rivers. It is not just historic loss, it is perspective loss. Our guys have estimated that that loss is probably valued at $2 billion a year. Let’s say that the flood authority is wildly successful. After the contingency fee, it’ll provide us with roughly enough cash to cover less than four years of damage that the Corps is doing.

It's completely possible that the state's legal strategy has been knocked off balance by the other coastal lawsuits filed recently by the New Orleans-area flood authority and Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes—both against oil and gas companies.

To be certain, the state has very real grievances against the Corps and grounds for a variety of arguments.

So, as more becomes known, the question isn’t if the state will sue, but when and for what.

As for the when, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority meets next week, with an agenda due out possibly as early as Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when the ball may start rolling.

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