Stop the Lock - Call to Action on the Industrial Canal

As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Inner Harbor Navigational Canal (IHNC) Lock Replacement project rears its head again, Louisiana Landmarks Society remains actively engaged in opposing the project. The risks and problems it will bring to New Orleans far outweigh any benefits.  Before embarking on an outdated scheme with significant consequences, we believe the Corps of Engineers should evaluate the project with current data – particularly the dramatic changes that have occurred since the 22 year old decision to build the lock was made.

The IHNC lock has been instrumental for maritime shipping as it connects the Mississippi River to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.  The proposed new wider lock would facilitate faster passage for shipping and comes with an optimistic price tag of $951,000,000.  Of most concern, the new lock would be built twelve blocks further into the city – bringing with it the Mississippi River. The removal of the current lock creates tremendous risks that range from levee failure to environmental safety concerns when known toxic soils are dredged up and shipped to a landfill.

 The timeline for construction is projected at minimally 13 years – promising to snarl traffic to and from St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward not only due to the complicated replacement of the historically significant St. Claude bascule Bridge and lock, but long after construction ends. Because the Mississippi River would be at approximately Galvez Street, it is estimated that with a 7-15 feet higher river level at Claiborne Avenue, the drawbridge will need to be raised more often, estimated from the present rate of 15% of boat traffic to up to 70% – and be “up” approximately 40% longer for navigation of the longer tows.

 Many factors that should affect the decision for the lock have drastically changed, including the closure of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), the shift from accommodating deepwater draft ships to now only shallow-draft, changes in barge traffic, the commodities shipped (i.e. in 1989, coal and petroleum products comprised 71.7% of the traffic through the lock– but are not the vibrant commodities they once were). Yet the Corps has performed no studies that include this new information to determine if faster passage and/or if the savings for the shipping industry would be worth the costs, risks, inconveniences and problems that will undoubtedly ensue.  Benefits would accrue to the companies using the shipping lanes and not New Orleans businesses or residents.

 A few excerpts from Louisiana Landmarks Society’s letter submitted to the Corps of Engineers for the federal Section 106 process state: “We seem to be moving forward with a plan that was written twenty-two years ago but never enacted, adding the assumption that all deciding factors have remained frozen in time since then.  In any rational world this would, of course, be totally unacceptable – but in New Orleans it even has more significance.  Enormous changes have occurred: the urban landscape has expanded, the MRGO has been closed, significant structural changes have been made, the channel is no longer to be deep-draft, the Port Authority of New Orleans is no longer participating, etc.  But most of all, Hurricane Katrina – with her vast array of challenges – has hopefully changed every way of thinking.” 

 “Of deep concern is the lack of consideration for the next hurricane that requires evacuation of the city and waterways. The much needed reevaluation of alternatives provides the opportunity for serious review of all possibilities and assessment of the optimal site for the lock – not just for maritime commerce, but the City of New Orleans and its residents.  The current location of the lock jeopardizes citizen’s safety as difficult choices are required to either open bridges for maritime vessels maneuvering to safety, or allow thousands of vehicles to evacuate the hurricane’s path.  This is an immense problem with catastrophic consequences – yet the proposed project does not seem to include it in the consideration. …The number of people who died due to difficulties evacuating during Hurricane Katrina is just one reason this must be part of the equation before heading down the 22 year old pre-Katrina path.”

 “An up-to-date economic analysis that looks at the cost/benefit of each of the alternatives using current information must be conducted.  It should include the economic costs to all areas of the city and its immediate surrounding area (including St. Bernard Parish), resources, neighborhoods, businesses and residents (both homeowners and renters), time, traffic (including public transportation), added risks, etc. – compared with the monetized gains realized by vessels clearing the lock in less time – taking into account the new shallow draft restriction.”

 “It is imperative that the Corps conduct a comprehensive traffic study, a new Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and a study of the impacts to the urban area incorporating current data.”

 “… this is 22 year old material that assumes a static world and needs.  A new, open and transparent process of “broad-based community participation” needs to be conducted, with new participants who represent the current population, to include consideration of the changing environment and needs.” 

 … “we can’t ignore that the move to pick up a 22 year old MOA (Memorandum of Understanding) and plod forward is simply not a reasonable approach.  The USACE must take a step back and study all alternatives using current data and information.  It would be negligent to do anything less.”

 You can help: Sign the petition at https://www.stopthelock.com/. To learn more, watch the 12 minute video “Locked”. Louisiana Landmarks Society asks you to write your Congressmen and ask them to “Stop the Lock.”

U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond:
(504) 288-3777 – New Orleans Office
(202) 225-6636 – D.C. Office
Address: 2021 Lakeshore Dr. Suite 309
New Orleans, LA 70122

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy:
(504) 838-0130 – Metairie Office
(202) 224-5824 – D.C. Office
Address: 3421 N. Causeway Blvd, Ste. 204
Metairie, LA 70002

U.S. Senator John Kennedy:
(504) 581-6190 – New Orleans Office
(202) 224-4623 – D.C. Office
Address: 500 Poydras Street Suite 364
New Orleans, LA 70130

Governor John Bel Edwards:
(225) 342-0991
(844) 860-1413

City of New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell:
(504) 658-4900