Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Louisiana: Industrial Canal Lock Replacement (New Orleans)
Agency: Army Corps of Engineers
Criteria for Council Involvement:
- This multi-year engineering project will adversely effect a large number of historic properties, including two historic districts and several eligible structures (Criterion 1).
- The project raises important policy questions regarding evaluating project impacts on historic properties in the context of environmental justice for minority and low-income communities (Criterion 2).
- There has been substantial public controversy (Criterion 3).
In June, the New Orleans District, Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), circulated a draft Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the New Orleans Industrial Canal Lock Replacement. In response, the Council notified the Secretary of the Army and the Corps that the Council will actively participate in consultation on the project and review of the proposed MOA.
The New Orleans Industrial Canal Lock Replacement Project has a long history. The canal lock was built in 1923 by the Port of New Orleans to provide navigation between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. During World War II, the Federal Government leased and then purchased the lock, which is now under the jurisdiction of the Corps of Engineers. The River and Harbor Act of 1956 authorized the construction of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, a larger navigation channel that extends from the canal to the Gulf of Mexico for a distance of approximately 76 miles. Citing eventual obsolescence, as well as navigational delays and safety concerns due to the presence of several bridges over the canal, the 1956 Act also authorized replacement of the canal and lock with larger facilities. Monies have now been appropriated to initiate the replacement project.
The Corps' preferred alternative is to replace the 75-foot-wide by 640-foot-long historic lock and adjacent canal with a precast, floated-in, concrete lock 110 feet wide by 1,200 feet long that would accommodate deep-draft vessels. The St. Claude Bridge, the existing Inner Harbor Navigational Canal Lock, and the Galvez Street Wharf, all eligible for the National Register, would also be replaced in the more than $400 million project. The Florida Avenue Bridge, also eligible for the National Register, is to be replaced by the Port of New Orleans as a separate project with monies provided by the Coast Guard to address navigational hazard concerns. The proposed replacement of the lock and related canal segments would also adversely affect the Holy Cross and Bywater Historic Districts, which are eligible for the National Register. Both districts are significant for their small-scale, vernacular architecture dating from between 1807 and 1935.
Orleans Parish has challenged the Corps' economic impact study and mitigation plan as deficient in its treatment of the concerns of affected employees, property owners, residents, and local government subdivisions. Also, the Holy Cross Neighborhood Associationrepresenting the neighborhood which would be most directly affected by the project constructionhas expressed concerns about noise, increased traffic from road re-routings, decreased property values, and other impacts to their historic neighborhood during the estimated 10 to 12 years of project construction.
The Neighborhood Association maintains that the Corps and the Port of New Orleans have been reluctant to consult meaningfully with them and other groups, while apparently proceeding apace with project planning. The Corps has countered that the project has been redesigned to have less impact on historic properties and adjacent neighborhoods, and that a $33 million community impact mitigation plan is planned to lessen the effect of the project on residents.
The Council first became aware of this project in September 1998, when community and historic preservation groups, the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, Preservation Resources Center, and Tulane University Environmental Law Clinic, among others, expressed concern about effects on historic properties and queried the status of the Corps' Section 106 compliance. In response, the Council discussed the project with the Corps and encouraged them to begin consultations under Section 106 as soon as possible.
The scale of this project and the scope of its impacts on historic properties have engendered significant public controversy, and questions have been raised regarding the adequacy of public participation in its environmental review. In addition, there are environmental justice concerns, since the neighborhoods most directly impacted are primarily African American and of lower socioeconomic status. Both issues will need to be considered by the Corps and the Council as review under Section 106 proceeds.
Staff contact: Margie Nowick
Return to top of page