St. Charles settles on West Bank levee firms

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Staff Reporter

HAHNVILLE — The St. Charles Parish Council voted Monday to appoint an engineering firm and a professional services firm to assist in building a much-anticipated West Bank hurricane protection levee in the parish.

With two votes of 8-0, the council approved the appointment of GCR & Associates for management of land and right-of-way acquisition and Burk-Kleinpeter Inc. for engineering services related to the levee project.

Parish President V. J. St. Pierre told the council before the vote that he chose the firms because of their proven track record of involvement in federal levee projects with the Pontchartrain Levee District. Both companies have been involved in levee projects on the East Bank of the parish.

Mona Nosari, a representative from GCR, provided some background about the firm to members of the council. She said that the Pontchartrain Levee District retained GCR in 1991 to acquire land for the East Bank Levee. She also said the firm had a hand in acquiring property along the 17th Street Canal in New Orleans as part of a project to improve flood walls in that area. She said the firm would research land ownership titles to be sure that the parish gets appropriate credit for its share of construction costs for the levee.

District 2 Councilman Shelley Tastet told his fellow council members he could vouch for GCR’s track record of quality work. He said he followed their progress as they worked with the Lafourche Basin levee.

“This will be a good help for us on this project,” said Tastet. “I ask that you support the move.”

St. Charles Public Works Director Sam Scholle recommended the work of Burk-Kleinpeter as a way to build a better relationship with the Army Corps of Engineers. He said the firm has a proven track record with the corps and that it has involvement in the Donaldsonville-to-the-gulf levee project.

“They are involved in the current alignment discussion,” said Scholle. “The firm has a good relationship with the corps and brings a considerable amount of professional engineering and consultant advice.”

Burk-Kleinpeter Vice President Michael Chopin told the council that the firm has extensive knowledge of the levee system and said they are also involved in floodwall protection projects in Des Allemands along with the West Shore project in St. John Parish.

“You are taking some major steps that have not been taken in the past,” Chopin told the council. “By taking these steps to build relations with the corps, you will see a change for the better.”

The entire council supported the moves, but many felt that they wanted to see more interaction between the firms and the council members.

“We are spending lots of money on this and I would like to be kept in the loop,” said District 3 Councilwoman Wendy Benedetto.

Chopin assured her that representatives from Burk-Kleinpeter can be made available on a regular basis for scheduled meetings to talk about the project.

In other action from the meeting Monday, St. Pierre told the council that after winning a state competition, a sample of water taken from St. Charles’ East Bank water treatment plant has also won a national competition that pitted the sample against water from regions in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

“I think if we can win on the national level we should just bottle that water and sell it,” St. Pierre said with a laugh.”