REPRESENTING THE RIVER
Despite being in office for less than a decade, U.S. Congressman Garret Graves – legislator for Louisiana’s Sixth District – hasn’t wasted any time pushing several long-standing projects over the finish line that benefit the area’s personal and economic interests.
After defeating Democratic candidate Edwin Edwards in a runoff election in Dec. 2014 and assuming office a month later, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) hit the ground running.
Within Graves’ initial two-year term representing Louisiana’s Sixth Congressional District, he wrote, negotiated and enacted legislation addressing several local infrastructure issues, including the expansion and reconfiguration of sections of I-10, I-12, and LA-30, changed a dysfunctional existing federal law to protect the interests of thousands of flood victims in 2016, and secured funding for multiple flood protection projects that had been on the books for decades.
“In the few years I’ve been doing this, we’ve been able to get things done that have been stuck for decades,” Graves said. “You know, we’ve been able to make good on a Hurricane Protection Program that’s been stuck and gone nowhere since before I was born. You just have to be relentless in working and cutting through all the red tape and overcoming all the obstacles to ultimately help the people and businesses of South Louisiana.
I mean, they’re turning dirt right now on something that needs to happen—a project that was stuck in the mud—and that’s a great feeling. It’s awesome to see that.”
Louisiana’s Sixth District–which hugs St. Landry Parish to the west, St. Charles Parish to the east, and stretches north-south from the Mississippi border to lower portions of Terrebonne Parish—arguably might be the state’s most diverse and eclectic region. It’s an area filled with different dialects, traditions and industries. However, as Graves explains, the needs and concerns aren’t necessarily vastly different from zip code to zip code—even if the means of how to best address those needs and concerns might vary.
“Are the top priorities the same in Baton Rouge that they are in Thibodaux? You’d actually be surprised to learn there are a lot of similarities,” Graves said. “In Lafourche and Terrebonne, flooding and flood protection is incredibly important, and that might center upon hurricane protection and coastal restoration. And in Denham Springs and Gonzalez, flood protection is also incredibly important, but achieving protection involves pump stations and methods to evacuate the water faster.
“But from one edge of the district to the other edge of the district, having the infrastructure to protect people and businesses from weather is a chief concern,” Graves continued. “So knowing the issues of our people, knowing the district like I do has helped us get things done—because we already know what’s important here, so let’s go do them.”
Considering the amount of Sixth District constituents who directly and indirectly depend on the Mississippi River for their livelihood, Graves has been involved in several measures to strengthen local maritime commerce interests, which in turn benefits industries all across the country. Graves played a major role in making sure deepening the lower Mississippi River to 50 feet—a depth suitable for New Panamax and Post Panamax vessels to reach as far north as Baton Rouge—would be included in the 2020 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Work Plan.
“I call the Mississippi River ‘America’s Commerce Superhighway,’” Graves said. “And in the future, its vital economic role is only going to continue to grow. That’s why our success in working with President Trump to get the deepening project funded was important. (Rep.) Steve Scalise (R-LA) and I met repeatedly with Trump officials and other government officials to get this project fully funded.
“You know, Louisiana has 5 of the Top 15 ports in the United States, but that all goes away if the river isn’t deepened to keep up with maritime trends and needs.”
Beyond championing the River Region’s business interests, Rep. Graves has also spearheaded bills to protect those who call it home. During the 115th Congress, Graves chaired the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, where he secured funding for several flood protection and coastal restoration initiatives in South Louisiana. Most recently, Graves secured provisions for environmental infrastructure projects in several parishes along with dredging waterways like the Houma Navigation Canal, Bayou Lafourche and the Mississippi River.
“The connectivity of the River to all of South Louisiana is pretty profound,” Graves said. “Its resources transcend the environment. Its resources transcend our economy. It really is the lifeblood of our region.