New pump station coming in St. Charles

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 10, 2010



DESTREHAN – Officials from St. Charles Parish and the Pontchartrain Levee District broke ground Wednesday afternoon on a new pump station that will relieve drainage issues for St. Rose and Destrehan by this time next year.

The Cross Bayou pump station, situated along Airline Highway between St. Rose and Destrehan, is designed to pump up to 1,300 cubic feet of water per second over the St. Charles LaBranche levee, which is being raised to withstand a storm with a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year. It will have the capacity to drain 12,000 acres on the east bank.

The $19 million project is a joint venture between the levee district, which contributed $7.3 million, and the state Department of Transportation. Motiva Enterprises LLC and Shell Chemical LP also each contributed about $2.5 million for construction, even though the plants don’t benefit directly from the drainage improvements. The remaining gap will come from grants and other sources that don’t involve taxpayer money.

“We are very excited to see this project getting under way,” St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre Jr. said. “The parish is looking forward to it as another step in better protecting our East Bank residents not only from storm surge, but from interior rainfall flooding. Residents on the East Bank can certainly be more at ease knowing there’s another pumping station going into the already-effective hurricane protection levee.”

The pump station is part of an extensive flood control feasibility study conducted by the Pontchartrain Levee District and completed in March 2009.

The Cross Bayou station is the second of five new pump stations planned for the east bank. The smaller Trepagnier pump station in the Bonnet Carre Spillway was completed in 2004.

Steve Wilson of the Pontchartrain Levee District said the new pump replaces several smaller pumps that are able to gradually lower water levels in the bayou on the dry side of the small hurricane protection levee in that area, but not enough to make a difference in neighborhoods during heavy rains.

Wilson said the rainwater pumped by the station will help sustain the LaBranche Wetlands, which are losing ground to brackish water from Lake Pontchartrain. The 17,000-acre marsh is considered a valuable buffer zone for the fragile levee system.

The east bank levee along the lake has an average height of 10 feet and was built to withstand a so-called 10-year storm. The system was just high enough to block an 8-foot storm surge from Lake Pontchartrain sent by Hurricane Katrina.

In December 2009, the Army Corps of Engineers was awarded a $12 million contract to raise the height of the east bank levee to 16.5 feet. Phylway Construction LLC of Thibodaux has been contracted to do the work.

The extra height is expected to be added by early 2011.