LaPlace drainage main topic at recent town hall

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 2, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson
LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish officials provided an update on the status of drainage improvements in the Foxwood and LaPlace Park subdivisions during a District IV town hall meeting Wednesday at the LaPlace public library.
In June, engineer Rick Shread of Shread-Kuyrkendall and Associates revealed the parish’s plans to construct a levee along the western side of the LaPlace Park subdivision to prevent backwater flooding from Lake Maurepas.
A portion of the levee will run along the
east side of Haydel Canal and will cross over to the west side
at some points.
Culverts will be added to the canal, with a levee connecting the two sides. Surveyors discovered that parts of an existing levee on the east side of the canal were allegedly constructed without the permission of the parish on private property.
Parish representatives came to the consensus that the most cost-effective option would be to approach the property owners near the illegal levee to make them aware of the situation and offer to purchase the land to acquire the servitudes that are on the property. The process has had “limited success” but a mostly positive response, according to Shread.
Shread said he has managed to contact eight of the total 13 plot owners, who have agreed to work with the parish. However, other complications have arisen: two of the remaining five owners are deceased, while the other three cannot be located. Shread added that the cooperating landowners have asked how much land the parish will take and how much it will pay to acquire it.
Shread said he cannot provide an answer to these questions until they can complete a design for the proposed levee. It may take another year before the parish can begin constructing the levee, according to his estimates.
Parish President Natalie Robottom also added that the project would likely need some additional funding to allow for the purchase of property. On Nov. 16, the parish will propose a $30 million bond issue for residents of St. John Parish to approve. Robottom advised that the money the parish budgeted initially for the project was still there and appealed to the residents for support.
“When we started out, we funded this project in the public works budget without the idea that we’d have to purchase property. As a result of that, whether it’s right-of-way or purchasing property, that’s going to add some additional costs,” she said. “We’re going to have to add some more money to this project.”
Shread then reviewed plans for the Foxwood drainage improvements, which are slightly behind schedule.
The parish resolved to build a levee around the subdivision to
prevent backwater flooding, with a lift
station to remove
water. The proposed levee will begin at the access road to the subdivision and go behind the homes on the western side, tying into LaPlace Park Levee. Shread said the levee would be built to a base flood elevation of seven feet on all sides except the eastern side. Here, it would be built to a BFE of six feet because the area behind the homes on this side does not provide enough room to build to the higher height.
The parish will also build up the roadway into the Foxwood subdivision so it would serve as part of the levee system. The submersible lift station would force the water that flows by gravity from the pond into the LaPlace Plantation Canal. The lift station would have gates placed on the ends to prevent water from backing up.
Property acquisition and mitigation requirements are due for completion at the end of November. Officlals expect to acquire permits from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources by Dec. 31. The parish has already gained environmental clearance through the office of community development.
Robottom assured residents that the project was progressing, but asked them to remember that the process takes time.
“Things move a lot slower than we would like them to. If we had our own money and we were independent, we could move a lot quicker. But many times we’re just hanging on with other agencies, whether it’s the state or federal government. They have their own rules, policies and procedures that we have to follow if we’re going to accept their money,” she said.