Drainage tops agenda in St. James

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 19, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

VACHERIE – Representatives from Burk-Kleinpeter Inc. provided the members of St. James Parish Council with updates on the status of the East Bank Master Drainage plan during their regular Wednesday meeting.
Mike Chopin and Henry Picard said the company has completed phase one of the drainage project and is currently awaiting state funding to begin phase two. Picard anticipates receiving funding by November.
Picard went on to say that the team is about “60 percent complete” on the Interim Flood Protection Study. The pair presented the council with several tentative options for flood protection, based on information collected from light detection and radar: the first would use U.S. Highway 61 as a flood barrier. Louisiana Highway 3125 would be used as a barrier for the second option, and the third option would utilize the spoil bank of a small parish-run canal that runs north of Louisiana Highway 3125 to provide protection.
Picard estimated it would cost anywhere from $130 million to $140 million to make U.S. 61 a viable option for flood protection, which would include the addition of pump stations and raising the highway to an eight-foot elevation since it was “breached” during Hurricane Isaac. Using Highway 3125 as a barrier would not require as much elevation as U.S. 61, so the cost estimate was roughly $60 million to  $70 million. This option would also require at least one pump station and could be difficult to manage because of traffic control.
For the third option, Picard estimated that the cost to raise just the levee would be about $10 million, though it would also require the addition of a couple of pump stations and railroad gates. This addition would bring the cost to about $75 million. The representative seemed to favor this option for its future adaptability, saying it could provide a level of protection in St. James Parish comparable to the Army Corps of Engineers’ Alternative C in St. John the Baptist Parish.
“A significant dollar amount, but it gets us to the same level of protection as the other two alternatives,” he said.
Picard also said this option could more easily be maximized to a 27-foot protection level, which would be “equivalent to the West Shore Levee.”
During a public hearing before the meeting, the St. James Parish Council also proposed an amendment to a local  ordinance regarding the policy for naming public facilities in the parish.
Council member Jason Amato proposed that the council establish a five-year waiting period following an individual’s death before a current parish president or council member may ask that a facility be named in honor of the deceased. Amato also requested a variance to allow the council to waive the waiting period in certain special circumstances.
Councilman Alvin St. Pierre suggested that the amendment require a two-thirds majority vote on any proposed facility naming before it may be passed.