A Tennessee Valley Authority for the Gulf Coast?

June 11, 2010 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Via Crooks and Liars, Doug Brinkley, the historian, author and Washington-type, told Anderson Cooper on CNN that administration sources told him there would be a Gulf recovery bill, possibly one including the redirection of the Mississippi River to restore coastal wetlands, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. I’ve cleaned the transcript up a bit:

BRINKLEY: **There are three things…going on. One is close that well…capture as much oil as you can, keep the pressure on BP on the relief wells. Second is immediate cleanup. And I think more can be done by the Obama administration…But I think the big third piece is coming, when President Obama comes to Florida and Alabama and Mississippi, and that is holding BP responsible for the Natural Resource Damage Act, for the Oil Spill Response Act. And, by that, I mean BP is going to end up paying somewhere from $10 billion to $15 billion, maybe even $20 billion, because they’re going — one of the only ways to save the Louisiana wetlands is going to be — you know, the Mississippi River has been channelized for navigation.**

Well, now the Mississippi River has to be redirected. It’s going to have to be flooded and sediment pumped into these marshlands to save it. I think the Obama administration…


COOPER: So, no, wait. No, wait. Doug, is this just a hope on your part?


COOPER: Or — I mean, I know you have been talking to sources. Do you believe this is actually going to happen?

BRINKLEY: Yes. Yes.** It’s one of the reasons why the president is not talking to Tony Hayward. And they are going to come out with a large Gulf recovery act, because the oil and gas industry has been dredging. We have disappearing barrier islands. For 40 years down there, it’s abused the wetlands.**

This is a turning point. There is an appetite on Capitol Hill for Gulf recovery act. The Mississippi River is going to have to be redirected into the marshlands. And BP and Transocean and other, you know, operations, Cameron, other companies are going to have to pay up to $10 billion and $15 billion for breaking national acts.

In addition, for offshore drilling in the Gulf, Anderson, there will be a conservation excise tax that, yes, there will be offshore drilling, but Louisianians will start getting some of the revenue to stay in state.


Congress is going to go after BP, and they have now broken, as I said, National Resource Damage Act, Oil Spill Response Act. And in order to save the wetlands, which BP is responsible to, it’s going to be — the Army Corps of Engineers has directed — if you fly over, it’s like a bird’s foot. There are three channels.

We’re now going to have to redirect Mississippi River sediment and flood the marshlands to try to save them. That will occur after this — the well gets capped, the relief wells are built. But, in the next year or two, this will be, for President Obama administration, I think something of a Tennessee Valley Authority or a Saint Lawrence Seaway under Dwight Eisenhower, a major public works act.

I take this with a grain of salt, as it is the first I have heard of it. But if it is true, and the administration or Hill figures are considering such a major public works project, it sounds like good news on numerous fronts. First, the wetlands and the environment need this sort of intensive attention. Second, the country could use the stimulus: the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars this would bring. Third, it could be coupled with a serious tax on dirty energies, to pay for this restoration plus the expected costs of future cleanups. **