Tregre tries last plea for levee plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 1999

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / December 29, 1999

HAHNVILLE – Parish President Chris Tregre took the opportunity at the last meeting of the present St. Charles Parish Council to again make hispitch for the West Bank hurricane protection levee project.

For most of 12 years, following parish council directives, Tregre pushed for a levee alignment which the council abandoned earlier this year.

Meanwhile, according to Tregre, the new version suggested by the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers and backed by the council will take many more years to construct and millions more to finance and will leave the parish’s west bank unprotected in case of a hurricane.

On the other hand, Tregre said, his version had rights of way already donated free of charge, a much lower construction cost and less hazard, not only to the wetlands, but also be in place years sooner.

Nevertheless, following the council’s new direction, Tregre this year has pushed for the new alignment. However, as he commented at the meeting,the earlier option remains open.

The right of access for initial survey work has already met with stiff resistance by area landowners, Tregre revealed. Eighteen have said no,only six have said yes, 12 gave no response and the responses of five others are not known since they could not be contacted.

Conversely, access was free and clear on the earlier alignment.

Additionally, as revealed in an Oct. 15 letter to Tregre from Col. ThomasJulich of the corps, a reconnaissance study, to be totally federally funded, is first needed.

That’s to be followed by a preliminary environmental impact study, the cost of which will be split 50/50 with a local government and last three to five years. Along the way, land survey, land ownership, topographicalsurvey, archeological survey, environmental survey, geotechnical information and engineering come next.

The design phase is next, funded 75/25 with a local entity, Tregre said.

The possibility exists to link this levee project to the in-progress Donaldsonville-Gulf of Mexico protective levee project. Without anyfurther complications, that project could be reviewed for possible Congressional funding by October 2004.

All this goes ahead of any construction. Tregre added, though, if therequired 404 wetlands permit was approved for the earlier alignment as requested, construction could start by the Lafourche Basin Levee District as soon as next year.

The biggest local battle will be over rights of way, Tregre cautioned.

“There will be some big battles there,” he warned, as expropriation will be necessary in several cases, a protracted and expensive legal battle.

“This was a 12-year battle,” Tregre commented. “Don’t bend the backbone;don’t give up.”In a Sept. 14 meeting with corps representatives, Tregre reported that anexact alignment hasn’t been agreed on, making necessary the reconnaissance study.

However, the original 404 application remains on the Corps table, anxious for approval.

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