Sep 2, 2017 | In the News, Infrastructure

Air Force One landed at Chennault International Airport in Southwest Louisiana Saturday afternoon, met on the air strip by politicians intent on showing the president their state needs his help.

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump met with Louisiana’s governor and congressional delegation, law enforcement, emergency responders and members of the National Guard and Cajun Navy in Lake Charles.

Lake Charles and much of Louisiana near the Texas line experienced flooding last week as Harvey made landfall yet again as a tropical storm.

U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins’ focus was on getting preventative measures in place before another emergency.

“I’m hopeful, I’m prayerful, that the president will come away with the clear understanding that it’s a wise and prudent investment of the people’s treasure on a small level to pre-mitigate water events like this as opposed to emergency appropriations of hundreds of billions of dollars, which is about to happen,” Higgins said about an hour before the president landed.

Higgins said being proactive rather than only reactive could save the country millions of dollars and save the American people from seeing devastating damage over and over again.

“We could have wisely invested the people’s treasure to the tune of, perhaps, hundreds of millions of dollars spread over the course of the last 20 to 30 years,” Higgins said, “and much of this flood damage would not have happened.”

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham said he expects the president to ask Congress for funding for Louisiana.

“(President Trump) knows the devastation that this storm has left,” Abraham said before the president arrived. “He knows that the recovery won’t be weeks, won’t be months, it will be years. And he will ask Congress for a lot of money.”

When asked if he would support that, Abraham said “I think so” and pointed out, like Higgins, that Harvey’s effects weren’t a first for Louisiana.

“How often as Louisianans have we lived through this? (Hurricanes) Katrina, Gustav, Ike, and the list goes on and on,” he said.

Higgins said one reason this keeps happening are under-managed water management systems.

“The water management systems, both man-made and natural, have been improperly maintained to their expected depths and widths for decades,” Higgins said.

If the systems in South Louisiana aren’t properly dredged and maintained, then the water can’t get to the Gulf, and areas will continue to flood, he explained.

“What I hope the president, respectfully, can take away from this visit is that much of the loss of American property — both business and residential — from flooding will be not necessarily because of the water dumped by the storm but because of the lack of the management of the water dumped by the storm,” Higgins said.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy was hopeful Trump would minimize the amount the state will have to match federal relief funds.

Normally the state is required to provide a 25-percent match, but Kennedy’s hope and “suspicion” were that the president would announce a reduction to 10 percent.

Louisiana needs that now, he said.

“(That) is very important for Louisiana … we had our own devastating flooding from this catastrophe,” Kennedy said. “And we also had it last year in August and March, and we’re still recovering from that.”

Trump and the first lady visited Louisiana after a morning seeing Harvey’s impact on Houston. They returned to Washington, D.C., Saturday night.

Leigh Guidry, USA Today Network

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