It's been another busy couple of weeks in the Lower 9th Ward.
Last night close to 300 residents from the Lower and Upper 9th Ward came together to Speak With One Voice! in opposition to the Army Corps' of Engineers proposed plan to replace the lock in the Industrial Canal.
The Corps' proposed lock replacement project will cost close to a billion dollars, take at least 13 years to complete, dredge - and release - heavy metals and other toxins from the canal, essentially move the Mississippi River a mile inland into a highly urban area and displace, disrupt and place at great risk the surrounding communities - so the shipping industry can shave a few hours off their vessel loading times.
At the Corps' earlier March 7 community meeting in the Lower 9th Ward, 11 L9W community and faith-based organizations partnered to formally submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Corps for their vessel log books and their methodology for calculating delays.
We hand delivered the request to the Corps at the March 7 meeting (and again at last night's meeting) and we emailed an electronic copy on March 8 to the Corps and to each of our elected officials at the City, State and Federal levels. We have yet to receive notification of receipt from anyone at the Corps or any of our elected officials - including our City Councilman James Gray.
According to the Department of Justice, federal departments have 20 working/business days to respond - in writing - to FOIA requests.
We put the Corps on notice at last night's community meeting that Tuesday, April 4th is their 20th Day.
The deadline for public comment on the Corps' proposed and dangerous boondoggle is April 7. You can submit comments here:
The District Engineer
7400 Leake Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70118.
Comments may also be sent to the District Engineer through Mr. Mark Lahare, via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other, happier news, we are thrilled to share updates from Ms. Ethel's house. Ms. Ethel is an elderly lady on a fixed income who has not been able to complete her home repairs from Hurricane Katrina due to a lack of financial resources. We are working with Ms. Ethel to help her secure additional rebuilding funds that she is legally entitled to - but that process takes time.
Before Historic Green
Historic Green at Work
After Historic Green
In the meantime, more than a dozen volunteers from Historic Green (with support from University of Kansas and the KU chapter of Engineers without Boarders) spent their 10th Anniversary working in our community helping to fix up Ms. Ethel's house. They reframed termite-infested studs, removed bad fascia and siding and replaced it with HDLC-approved Hardie Board (donated by our friends at Lowernine.org), reframed and installed a donated and solid cypress side door, scrapped, sanded, primed and painted the front of Ms. Ethel's house - and put in flower beds.
We continue to be humbled by the sacrifices so many folks make to volunteer in our community - more than 11 years after Katrina. Not only do our volunteers help rebuild our homes and our community, but they also help rebuild our spirit.
We are deeply thankful for them all.