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Monday, May 23, 2022

OPINION:

Last year, Hurricane Ida brought the national conversation surrounding America’s decaying infrastructure to Louisiana. Small businesses and growing industries can’t rebound if the electricity grid is down and roads are impassable for days, weeks, and months following a natural disaster. Without effective, safe, and secure infrastructure, there is no foundation to rebuild and no opportunity to protect coastal communities.

We recognized these needs. And acted. After months of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, representing states from the west coast, east coast, south, and middle of America, we successfully crafted the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). It is the culmination of an effort to make responsible investments that our communities and economy need, instead of a bloated, partisan bill with no consideration on how to pay for it.


States like Louisiana are already reaping the benefits.

The infrastructure bill gave the Army Corps of Engineers $17 billion for coastal restoration, levee construction, and flood mitigation. It includes billions more to improve the resiliency of our electrical grid. It invests $65 billion in broadband, giving priority to underserved communities. It funds the repair and construction of highways and bridges, and invests in airports, ports and waterways. The IIJA also slices away at the red tape that so often slows construction projects.

Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it will allocate over $643 million to Louisiana for 21 coastal, waterway, and flood projects. That includes over $378 million for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf Hurricane Protection System. Funds were also dedicated to the Southwest Coastal Louisiana Hurricane Protection System and to the Atchafalaya Basin. These are critical projects to prevent disaster and flooding, all the while saving billions of dollars in damage and providing a return on investment.

Like every state, Louisiana also received its first installment to repair bridges and infrastructure through the Bridge Formula Program. We received an additional $35 million for airports throughout the state. Money has been dedicated toward broadband expansion, clean drinking water improvements, and the clean-up of Superfund sites. There is no doubt that the IIJA is making concrete improvements to our infrastructure.

The IIJA passage last year represents what lawmakers can do when we work together and address the needs of the American people—and implementation of the law couldn’t come at a more important time.

The ongoing geopolitical conflicts highlight the importance of investing in American infrastructure to strengthen U.S. energy independence. Putin’s war in Ukraine, inflation, and skyrocketing gas prices are hampering our families, workers, and energy sector. If we want to export oil and gas while meeting environmental standards in Europe and elsewhere, we need this money to modernize the industry.

The IIJA gives the United States the tools to lead, secure a Russia-free energy future, and strengthen U.S. energy production. Not only does the bipartisan infrastructure law make historic investments in roads, bridges, ports, and airports, but also funds energy development, offshore energy storage, and efforts to lower carbon emissions. Our nation is seeking solutions. The Biden administration needs to do more to rebuild America’s energy independence but the IIJA provides some of the relief we need.

Prioritizing smart investments leads to a brighter future. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, the federal government invested in New Orleans’ levee system’s resiliency. As the levees built following Katrina held and saved communities during Hurricane Ida, so will the investments of the IIJA benefit our communities for years to come.

• Dr. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, is the state’s senior United States senator. He was one of the key architects of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He is a member of the Senate Finance and Energy and Natural Resources Committees.


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