St. Charles levee update

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 14, 2013

HAHNVILLE – On Nov. 18, the St. Charles Parish Council took historic action by approving a $5.8 million construction contract with Southern Delta Construction LLC for the first construction phase of the Willowridge reach of the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee. In anticipation of construction beginning, St. Charles Parish is offering the following update on construction impacts in Luling, as well as a complete update on the West Bank Levee Initiative and flood insurance rates.
“After decades of red tape and obstacles, it may be an understatement to say that we are excited to get started with construction of the Willowridge Phase of the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee,” St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre said. “The events of the past year with regard to flood insurance, as well as the prevalent flooding issues in Willowridge itself, clearly show the economic and physical vulnerability of the area and the dire need for hurricane protection. When I was elected as parish president in 2008, the levee was first on the list of goals we put forth as an administration. I am happy to say that today — with the help of many individuals and their hard work — we can celebrate another step in making good on that promise. I would ask residents to stay alert for more information from the parish not only about construction impacts in the Luling area, but also updated information on the progress of the entire levee project, from Davis Diversion to Highway 308 in Lafourche Parish. We will stop at nothing less than complete and comprehensive hurricane protection for all residents of St. Charles Parish.”
Willowridge construction update
 The contractor is set to begin mobilization in late December, and clearing and grading of land along the levee alignment up to the subdivision’s property boundary directly south of Willowridge and Willowdale will commence soon after. This work is necessary to improve drainage around the perimeter of the subdivision. All residents are asked to remove any personal items located in this area.
Work will typically occur between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, and the project has an expected duration of 12 months. The work site will be accessed via Lafayette Drive. Dump truck traffic from U.S. Highway 90 down Willowdale Boulevard to the levee site is expected to increase as construction continues. The St. Charles Parish Council also on Nov. 18 passed an ordinance lowering the speed limit for such truck traffic to 15 mph to help lessen impacts to the neighborhood. Residents should be on the lookout for this slow-moving truck traffic, as well as an increase of dust on the road surface and the addition of weekly street sweeping.
Trespassing on the levee right-of-way is prohibited. Violators will be referred to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Once complete, the first phase of the Willowridge Levee will offer 5.5 feet of hurricane and tidal flooding protection from the Peterson Canal (on the western side) to an existing berm behind Willowridge Drive. When all four construction phases are complete, the levee will stand at 7 feet and include the new Willowridge Pump Station, a detention pond and two tidal interchange structures.
Overall levee plans
The St. Charles Parish West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee is a multi-phase project that encompasses 33 miles from the Davis Diversion West Guide Levee in Luling to a ridge at Highway 308 in Lafourche Parish. This long-term project is split into four reaches within St. Charles Parish – Willowridge (Luling), Ellington (Luling and Boutte), Magnolia Ridge (Boutte) and Sunset (Paradis, Bayou Gauche and Des Allemands). It will offer flood protection to approximately 25,300 residents and numerous business and industrial sites, including energy and petrochemical producers, on the West Bank. It will also protect U.S. 90, a critical evacuation route for southeast Louisiana residents from multiple parishes.
The overall goal of the West Bank Levee Initiative is to design and construct a flood protection system that meets both Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requirements. This projected $500 million project can only be accomplished with cooperation and funding provided by supporting agencies, including the Lafourche Basin Levee District and Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, in collaboration with St. Charles Parish
government. Currently the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s Statewide Flood Control Program is funding 70 percent of the total cost of the Willowridge levee and 90 percent of the proposed Willowridge Pump Station. The State of Louisiana Division of Administration, Facility Planning and Control provides additional funding.
To meet that goal – and with the recent transfer of the governing authority of the Sunset Drainage District to St. Charles Parish – all phases are being worked on simultaneously as funding allows. LBLD is currently working with CPRA to have the overall levee alignment included in the state’s Coastal Master Plan, which will open the door for further state funding and BP RESTORE Act funding for the levee. CPRA is in the process of evaluating the hydraulic model of the levee system and preparing a cost/benefit ratio for the project. If CPRA makes a favorable recommendation, the Louisiana Legislature can include funding through the fiscal year 2015 annual plan that the Legislature would adopt in its 2014 session.
Phases update
The Ellington reach, which runs south of Luling from Willowridge Drive in Luling to Magnolia Ridge in Boutte, is currently being designed, and levee consultants are acquiring rights-of-way. In addition, the procurement of soil boring and geotechnical engineering services is ongoing. The parish received a construction permit for this phase in March.
The Magnolia Ridge reach, which runs south of Boutte and will tie in to the Sunset levee at the Paradis Canal, is currently being repermitted. Regulatory agencies have reviewed all plans and public comments received during the application process and have approved changes to the permit proposed by the parish. These include a change in pump station operation parameters and the removal of tidal structures. The permit application is currently in the mitigation review phase, and the parish anticipates receiving mitigation requirement letters from regulatory agencies in the near future. Once that is complete, the parish will move forward with purchasing mitigation credits to offset impacts to 4.5 acres of wetlands.
The Sunset reach, which includes an existing levee surrounding Paradis, Bayou Gauche and Des Allemands, will undergo soil boring shortly. Topographic surveys of the levee system have already been completed and submitted to FEMA under the Levee Analysis and Mapping Procedure Program. LAMP is the process through which FEMA recognizes locally built levees as part of its Flood Insurance Rate Mapping.
The preliminary design of additional flood control improvements in Sunset has commenced and is being prepared for submission to FEMA under the Conditional Letter of Map Revision process. A Conditional Letter of Map Revision is FEMA’s comment on a proposed project that would, upon construction, affect the hydrologic or hydraulic characteristics of a flooding source and thus result in the modification of the existing regulatory floodway, the effective Base Flood Elevations or the Special Flood Hazard Area. The letter does not revise an effective NFIP map; rather, it indicates whether the project, if built as proposed, would be recognized by FEMA.
Additionally, a CLOMR will be submitted for the entire West Bank levee system being evaluated by CPRA.
The 2014 St. Charles Parish operating budget includes $25 million for levee work and matches to grant funding.
Flood insurance update
The St. Charles Parish administration and Parish Council continue to support efforts to delay dramatic flood insurance rate hikes contained in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, as well as efforts by the Louisiana Congressional delegation to allow for locally built flood protection structures to be recognized in the flood insurance mapping process.
St. Charles is one of 26 counties in the nation participating in the LAMP Pilot program to allow recognition of existing levees and other flood control structures on the proposed Flood Insurance Rate Maps and current authorized, funded, but not-yet-constructed levee portions recognized as “in place.” The LAMP process is anticipated to take roughly 18 months. Until this is complete, the current Flood Insurance Rate Maps will remain in place. This will prevent astronomical flood insurance rates from being implemented for most residents.
Any questions from the public may be directed to the St. Charles Parish Public Works Office at 985-783-5102. For more information on the levee project, including detailed information on the five construction phases of the Willowridge reach of the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee, visit
For more information on FEMA flood maps and the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, visit For more information on levee plans in St. Charles Parish, residents may view the 10-part “Focus on Levees” video series at Residents may sign up to be notified of flood insurance and levee-related news by clicking on “E-Newsletters” at and checking off the “Flood Insurance / Levees” or “Sunset Updates” boxes under News before providing an email address.