East bank levee project nearing end

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / March 29, 2000

NORCO – The $101 million east bank hurricane protection levee will have all its main segments completed by January 2001, the U.S. Army Corps ofEngineers has said.

Other portions, termed drainage structures, will close particular gaps left to accommodate pipelines and direct outflow gravity drainage and should be closed by 2004. Further overlays of the levee segments, as subsidencecontinues, is due to be finished by 2013.

Corps representatives hosted tours for St. Charles Parish officials Friday,providing them with a first-hand view of progress on the levee project. Stillup in the air is the notion of adding one or more pump stations to the levee system to pump out rainwater from the east bank residential areas.

In the past, storms pushed Lake Pontchartrain waters across Airline Highway, threatening New Sarpy and Ormond, with the result that hundreds of residents came out to pile sandbags against the rising tide.

Parish President Albert Laque, who attended the morning tour, pledged his efforts to have pump stations added. Project manager Alfred Naomi saidCongress may authorize a drainage study of the entire east bank, but he cannot say whether such a study will show that economic benefits will outweigh costs – the usual criteria for authorizing such a project.

Project documents state that a preliminary economic analysis could be completed by May.

Most of the first reach levee segments are complete, with the final reach, labeled on maps as Reach 1-B from Interstate 301 to the Jefferson Parish line, due to be finished in January. This is a $6.7 million segment underconstruction by Miller Excavating. At present, the foundation for the toe ofthe levee is laid.

The Good Hope floodwall is a gap in the levee system where a steel floodwall is installed to accommodate a pipeline route. Work here was also delayed forthree months due to disturbances of an egret rookery. This $2.4 millionproject is due to be finished in April, and the egrets have adjusted to the intrusion, Naomi said.

The Cross Bayou drainage structure project is due to be let in April, and the St. Rose drainage structure project is due to be let in September.Excavations are well under way for the Bayou Trepagnier drainage structure, awarded to Thigpen Construction Co. for $1.6 million. Completion is due inNovember.

At these drainage structures, water will be gravity-flow channeled into structures where gates can be opened or closed under parish supervision.

Naomi said the east bank hurricane projection levee is being built to withstand a Category 3 hurricane on a critical path. That path was defined asa hurricane which would come up the river and attempt to push lake water at the east bank. Naomi added this is a 200-year storm.Average height of the levee is 12-14 feet from end to end and is financed on an 70-30 split with the federal government financing the bulk of it. ThePontchartrain Levee District is likewise picking up the bulk of the 30 percent local match, splitting that cost 80-20 percent.

That boils down to St. Charles Parish paying only 6 percent of a $101 millionproject.

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