Parish receives another grant to help build raw water intake

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 22, 2009


EDGARD — St. John Parish administrators announced the parish has received another state grant to help build a much-needed raw water intake structure on the Mississippi River but are still awaiting clearance from the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with construction.

The $186,000 grant, which the St. John Council approved at a meeting in Edgard last week, is the second grant that the parish has received from the Louisiana Local Government Assistance Program (LGAP) to help pay for the water intake structure. The parish was awarded a $350,000 grant from the LGAP emergency fund back in 2006.

Parish Engineer C. J. Savoie said the grants would cover the majority of the cost to build a new structure to take in raw water from the Mississippi River for treatment at the West Bank treatment plant. Savoie said the old structure collapsed near the end of 2006, and the parish has been using a diesel-powered pump to move water from the river to the treatment plant at a cost of about $5,000 a month.

St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said the parish solicited bids on the new structure and has selected Boh Bros. Construction Co. of New Orleans to do the work. The company estimated the cost of the project at about $764,000, but Boe said the parish must still wait for permits from the Corps of Engineers, who have specific guidelines for any construction along the river side of the levee.

Savoie, who has been working closely with the corps on this project, said the parish has submitted numerous applications for construction. He said each time an application is submitted it comes back with a new change that the corps wants to see.

“The corps looks at a number of things when applications such as this are submitted,” said Savoie. “I understand that they want to be sure that the project won’t disturb the slope of the levee or the sediment, and we have complied with all of their demands, but they still have yet to grant approval.”

Savoie said the parish and the corps were coming close to resolving the corps’ concerns regarding the impact of the project on soil and sediment, but that reassurance was not enough to satisfy frustration from some council members.

District 1 Councilman Haston Lewis, who represents the Edgard area, was particularly critical in the delay and documented a series of breakdowns that have plagued the intake structure, which is the only source of potable water for West Bank residents. He also mentioned that the corps had allowed officials in St. Charles Parish to perform work on the river side of the levee in their parish.

Hubbard said parish officials have made trips to Washington, D.C., to meet with state congressional delegates and explain the severity of the situation. He said the parish had spoken to Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter and also Congressman Charlie Melancon to try and expedite the permit process.

“They have all seen the pictures of the ‘third world’ operation we have here,” Hubbard said. “It’s ridiculous. I’m frustrated just like everyone else.”

Lewis asked Hubbard to invite a corps representative to the council’s July 28 meeting, but Boe said the parish was informed this week that the corps has declined that invitation.