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Post Date:February 13, 2017 3:57 p.m.

Members of the St. Charles Parish Council and administration lobbied for local needs while attending various events in Washington D.C. last week. Below is the text of a speech given on the morning of Feb. 10 by Executive Director of Procurement & Government Buildings Darrin Duhe at the River Region Breakfast:

Good morning and thanks to everyone for joining us...

I want to start by sharing some exciting economic development news for 2017. Last week was a great week for St. Charles Parish, the River Region and the State of Louisiana. In one week, Entergy & Monsanto broke ground on $2 billion dollars worth of new projects that will begin this year...and over the next couple of years, more than 3,000 jobs will be deployed to construct facilities that will employ more than 200 permanent positions in St. Charles Parish and the surrounding area. We are extremely thankful to these companies for their vote of confidence in the people of St. Charles Parish and the River Region.

I am also extremely proud to report on the substantial gains we’ve made to assist and promote our small businesses through our “shop local” efforts. Since 2015, we’ve increased our transactions with local businesses and we’ve begun holding quarterly business exchange events. We hope to build on our efforts by promoting with our local business community and exploring other strategies that ensure everyone is given a fair opportunity to succeed.

Now, to the real reason we are here…federal assistance.

We have much to improve in St. Charles Parish, and flood protection for residents and businesses is at the top of that list. We are hard at work building the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee and are nearing completion of the first few projects. One of these projects is the Willowridge Pump Station that will come online next month and will pump 350 cubic feet per second to provide immediate flood relief for residents in that area.

The first four phases of this levee have construction costs of more than 28 million dollars and we have managed to secure 19 million dollars in funding through grants from the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the state’s Department of Transportation and Development...and we recently received word that we have been awarded $5.6 million dollars in hazard mitigation grant funding from FEMA.

Recognizing that we must help ourselves; our residents passed a 4-mil property tax in 2015 to support our levee construction efforts. The parish plans to use this tax revenue strategically as matching dollars to secure funding from other sources …because we know that without grant funding from the state and federal government, we would not have been able to achieve this amount of progress.

On the east bank of our parish, we are anxiously awaiting funding to be appropriated to the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain project. A federal project that will provide levee protection for St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes. 

So to our Federal partners, I respectfully ask for your help in spreading this message: our projects are shovel-ready. Our projects are permitted. But we need funding!

As all of you know, flood protection is a dual issue: There is actual flood protection in the form of levees, t-walls, and pumps; and then there is financial protection offered by the National Flood Insurance Program which is equally important to secure the future of our communities. It is imperative that we work together to prevent the astronomical flood insurance rates that our residents will pay if there are no changes made to the program. As we know, NFIP is up for renewal and we hope to see a program that not only protects our residents but also is sustainable and affordable because flood protection can only truly be successful if residents have flood insurance that they can afford.

It is the administration’s priority and I believe the priority of everyone in this room, that we work with our federal partners to help us overcome the flood insurance and flood protection obstacles facing our communities.

So once again speaking directly to our federal team, the message I want to leave with you today and the message I want you to share with your colleagues is a simple one: Levees do not only protect the residents of St. Charles Parish and the residents of the River Region, they protect billions of dollars of vital industry that our country depends upon.

Thank you.

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