Corps of Engineers propose to cut trees along 200 miles of Ouachita River, other rivers across the nation also in danger - The Corps of Engineers controls 13,000 miles of levees in the United States, the proposal to cut "all" trees along the levees also includes all of the scenic rivers that have levees controlled by the Corps of Engineers.

Click Here to visit the News Star Forum and voice your opinion on this issue.

Recent Media Coverage:

  • KMBS 1310 AM - Special thanks to Mr. Chuck Redden for help with spreading the word about this project.

  • KNOE-TV8 covers the annual levee inspection (October 16, 2007)
    KNOE met with representatives from the Ouachita River Foundation, Corps of Engineers and Tensas Basin Levee Board for a status update on the "tree removal" project.

  • Rock 106 Interview (October 16, 2007)
  • Special thanks to Opus Broadcasting for providing coverage on Tuesday, October 16th. Live interview on 106.1 FM at 11:20 a.m.

  • Comcast Spotlight Support (October 11, 2007)
  • Special thanks to Comcast Spotlight for providing coverage on CTV Channel 6 and the Weather Channel Crawl.
  • NBC-10 News Special Feature with Reporter Griffin Scott:
    On location at the Breston Plantation in Caldwell Parish and along Riverside Drive in Monroe and how the proposed tree removal project will impact the local community. Click Here to view the transcript (October 5, 2007)

  • News-Star Articles:
  • Trees along levees get temporary reprieve (October 16, 2007)
    Corps of Engineers propose to cut trees (April 21, 2007)

How You Can Help:

The Corps of Engineers are scheduled to conduct their annual inspection of the levee system between October 16 - 18th.

WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT NOW to help keep this devastating project from becoming a reality !

We urge you to contact all of your State and Federal Representatves and ask them to stop this project.

To envision what this project would do to the Ouachita, look at all of the scenic beauty on this website then envision the banks without trees.

Download a flyer to pass out to friends & supporters (PDF Format)

Who to Contact:

Comments of the President of the Ouachita River Foundation concerning the Corps of Engineers Tree Cutting Proposal, as well as additional comments on how the Corps of Engineers Proposal COULD RAISE YOUR RESIDENTIAL AND BUSINESS INSURANCE, PLUS CHANGE THE REGULATIONS ON ALL BUILDING CONSTRUCTION IN THE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES ALONG THE OUACHITA

As President of the Ouachita River Foundation, I am seeking everyone's support in stopping what could be the future destruction of the beauty of many of America's scenic rivers, and especially the beautiful Ouachita river that runs through our state of Louisiana and Arkansas.

The following is a general synopsis of events that have transpired since hurricane Katrina that is now, because of new rules set by the Corps of Engineers could possibly mean the destruction of the Ouachita and many more scenic rivers in various states.

The U.S. Corps of Engineers is in the process of implementing the cutting of all trees on both sides of the levees along a 200 mile stretch of the Ouachita river in our area and also thousands of miles along the levees of many other scenic rivers in America. This plan which was legislated by the U.S. Congress will utterly destroy the beauty of these scenic rivers in many areas..

This plan is the result of a Congressional Committee and various studies made following hurricane Katrina, which recommended that trees not be allowed to grow "ON" a levee. The Corps decided in reaction to this, that they'd cut ALL trees that are within fifteen feet of the base of the levees, plus remove all of the stumps. A project of this magnitude would by necessity destroy more trees than those within fifteen feet of the levees. This would especially apply to the trees on the river side of the levees, because of right-of way access required for machinery, stump removal and grading, all of which would add to the destruction. It should also be noted that the Corps of Engineers are cutting the trees as far as 100 feet from the Lake Pontchartrain levee, so the distance from the levee that was supposed to be 15 feet has grown to 100 feet because there they call the base of the levee a "berm" that needs protecting.

There are 13,000 miles of levees under the jurisdiction of the Corps and all are inspected for safety each year. After, almost, 100 years, SUDDENLY, all of the "safe" levees no longer qualify for certification under this new tree rule. Congress's attempt to save our levees from storms like Katrina has resulted in mandating the destruction of the beauty of many of our nation's scenic rivers. In the case of the Ouachita where trees and levee follow close to the river, the appearance of the river would be reduced to that of a "drainage canal". This would also be typical for many other scenic rivers..

When asked if this plan could be reversed, the Corps of Engineers answer was, " if an extensive study was made PROVING that trees could exist adjacent the levees without harm to the levees", its possible.

Ironically, the perfect PROVEN study model already exists that would be typical for all rivers with tree growth and levees, This would be the Ouachita river, for trees have been growing adjacent the levees of the Ouachita for almost 100 years without any problems . . . but this model has been totally ignored by the Corps of Engineers...

An interesting aspect to the Congressional legislated destruction of the Ouachita and other scenic rivers is that while the Corps of Engineers are planning cutting the valuable tree growth that has existed for hundreds of years along 13,000 miles of rivers, they are at the same time receiving 100 million dollars from the U.S. Congress to restore the wetlands below New Orleans .

The wetlands are vital to the New Orleans area especially during a hurricane because they are a buffer to storm surges that would in turn produce flood waters. A past study has shown that the major reason for the deterioration of the wetlands was the Mississippi levee systems that were built by the Corps of Engineers following the flood of 1927. This levee system was constructed to hold water within the Mississippi river channel, but in doing the system prevents the wetlands from being refurbished with silt that is vital to rebuilding the wetlands each year. .

The question at this point is "why did the Corps of Engineers let trees grow along the levee system for the last 100 years if they posed a problem. The answer is that the trees have never posed a problem and what is actually taking place is an over reaction to a hurricane and resulting Congressional criticism of a levee system in New Orleans that was not high enough. This has absolutely nothing to do with trees and the Corps of Engineers knows it and Congress should know it. It is simply a matter of the levee not being high enough to protect new Orleans from a flood of the magnitude of that of Katrina.

The talk about trees is simply a diversion to keep the focus off the fact that the levee was not high enough, and everyone has agreed on this. If the real problem in New Orleans was that the levee was too low and they are having to raise it, using the same guide why are they not proposing to raise all 13,000 miles of levees along our rivers, instead of cutting trees that were not the problem in New Orleans and have never been a problem for the last 100 years along our rivers.

The talk about the danger of trees along levees has almost reached the point of paranoia as exemplified in a recent Corps of Engineer News Letter. "The Corps of Engineers is cutting almost 400 trees along lake Pantchartrain ( the same trees that survived the Katrina winds ) because they might blow over in a storm" Also, Less than 30 trees were blown over by Katrina in Jefferson Parish and none were associated with levee failure. .

Another detrimental aspect of the tree cutting project is digging out all the stumps which would require regrading and refilling large areas of ground that would be exposed for years before settling into a unified structure that could possibly withstand a flood without eroding.. In the mean time the levee system would be subject to the yearly high water that would surely wash out the fill areas and jeopardize the levee system..

If the Corps of Engineers were to cut all of the trees along our rivers as planned, and dig out all of the stumps, in the years to come Congress will have to fund another multi-million dollar program to plant new trees along the levees of our destroyed rivers to prevent erosion of the levee system just as the 100 million dollar program that they are now funding for the replacement of the wetlands that the Corps of Engineers destroyed.

Now we hear that Congress ( who is funding the project ) is blaming the Corp ( who wrote the tree cutting rules ) and the Corp is blaming Congress but neither has said they would change the tree cutting rule, for now they seem to be content with passing the blame while the project to destroy the Ouachita continues..

We appreciate your support in helping save the Ouachita, please contact your state and federal representatives and voice your opinion to stop the tree cutting project.

Glenn Gore, President
Ouachita River Foundation


The Corps of Engineers tree cutting proposal Could Raise Your Insurance Rates. The new regulation set forth in CEMVK-OD-M District Regulations Number 1130-2-530 of the Corps of Engineers Levee Owners Maintenance Manual has not only posed a serious problem in relation to the destruction of the scenic beauty of the Ouachita River, but could become an even more serious problem financially for everyone living along the Ouachita.

The levee system is subject to a certification inspection by the Corps of Engineers each year. Therefore, if the trees are not cut in accordance to the new Corps of Engineer's regulations the levee system cannot be certified as required. If the levees are not certified most of the areas along the Ouachita would then be declared a Flood Zone by FEMA who is the governing authority for such declarations.

The effect that a Flood Zone classification would have on both residential and business insurance premiums in the Ouachita valley would be an unbearable financial burden for all of the communities. Not only would every residence and business property owner be forced to pay astronomical insurance rates but every municipality would be forced to pay higher insurance rates which would be passed on to the public in the form of service and utility rate hikes. Also, to add to the insurance cost would be new requirements set forth by FEMA for building structures such as houses and commercial buildings in a designated Flood Zone. All foundations for new construction would be required to be raised above the flood level which could be several feet or much higher in some cases. This requirement to raise all building foundations above normal standards would increase the costs of both residential and commercial buildings dramatically or even prohibit buildings from being built in some cases..

In closing, It should also be noted that even if the Corps of Engineers were to say that they will not cut the trees, the issue would not be totally resolved. The Corps of Engineers must be required to remove the "tree cutting" regulation from their Levee Maintenance Manual, for without the removal of this regulation there is no assurance that, at some time in the future, this regulation would not be used to declare the Ouachita valley area a Flood Zone. Call your representatives and ask that they have this regulation deleted from the Corps of Engineer's Levee Manual.

Glenn Gore, President
Ouachita River Foundation

Related Links & Resources:

Project Information - Media Kit (updated 10/8/07)
The following document was compiled by the Ouachita River Foundation and features a composite of numerous resources, articles, quotes and other helpful references pertaining to the "Tree Removal" project.

Click Here to download/view the document as a PDF.

Levee Symposium held in California

In September of 2007, more than 500 people from as far away as Holland attended a special symposium, organized by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency and the Corps of Engineers. Some asked what the consequences would be to flood safety if trees were clearcut from levees, leaving their roots behind:

  • Douglas Shields, a hydraulic engineer at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Mississippi, has studied levees on the Sacramento River and elsewhere. He said tree roots improve the shear strength -- the point at which soil yields under stress -- of the soil they grow in.
    "By and large ... trees have a positive or beneficial influence on the safety of levees," Donald Gray, a geotechnical engineering professor at the University of Michigan, told the symposium. "You see a major increase in factor of safety as we move from a minimal root area ratio to a higher level," he said. "We concluded that maintenance standards should favor shrubs and woody trees." This year, he and several colleagues used a computer model to show that trees also offer more erosion protection than a uniform carpet of grass, the levee cover favored by the corps.

  • UC Davis horticulture professor Alison Berry said this could destabilize levees by causing a large and disparate root mass to decay in unison. Levee erosion also might increase.

  • Dirk Van Vuren, a UC Davis professor of wildlife biology, said removing trees could create better conditions for animals that are most troublesome for levee managers: burrowing rodents. Gophers, ground squirrels and voles are the most prolific burrowing mammals on area levees, Van Vuren said. But they actually prefer open landscapes to easily detect predators. So a tree-clearing program on levees, he said, is likely to improve their habitat and cause their numbers to grow.
    CALIFORNIA CORPS OF ENGINEERS: The corps' regional commander, Brig. Gen. John McMahon, said Friday that removing trees won't necessarily make levees safer, because rotting roots left behind could provide a path for seepage that could compromise the levee. "There's no doubt in my mind our headquarters would like one standard applied broadly across the full spectrum of levees," said McMahon. "I personally don't think that's the right tack to take in this situation. Not all vegetation on levees is bad."
    Jeremy Arrich, chief of Water Resources' flood project integrity and inspection branch, said the goal is to persuade the Corps of Engineers to consider natural resources in its maintenance policies. Without that consideration, he said, many of Sacramento's urban levees are likely to fail the national policy when next evaluated by the corps.
  • The Fema Document 534 Connection ???
    Much of the corps' policy is based on a Federal Emergency Management Agency document called "FEMA 534 Technical Manual for Dam Owners," (115 page document from September 2005 following Hurricane Katrina) which explains threats to earthen dams from trees and other vegetation.

    Download/View the Manual

  • Corps of Engineers - Levee Owners Manual

  • Download/View the Manual

Special thanks to the following supporters:

  • Ouachita Riverkeeper (Waterkeeper Alliance)
  • Sierra Club (Delta Chapter)
  • American Rivers
  • EPA - Dallas Office
  • Governor Kathleen Blanco
  • Senator Mary Landrieu
  • Senator David Vitter
  • Representative Rodney Alexander
  • NBC-10 (KTVE) / FOX-14 (KARD)
  • The News Star (Gannett)
  • KNOE-TV8
  • Opus Broadcasting
  • Comcast Spotlight
    KMBS 1310 AM ( Mr. Chuck Redden )
  • and numerous others

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2007 - Ouachita River Foundation