Robottom asking residents to contact legislators to push for levee funding

Published 12:12 am Saturday, June 10, 2017

LAPLACE — One step forward, two steps back.

That’s the feeling for some in St. John the Baptist Parish concerning storm and flood protection via construction of a federally led levee effort dubbed the Westshore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Risk Reduction Project.

The gigantic project seemingly crossed a major hurdle in late 2016 when then-President Obama officially signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act into law. It included the Westshore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Risk Reduction Project that aims to create levee protections for St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and St. James parishes.

St. John residents and voters doubled down on that move by literally putting their money where their mouths were by approving a 7-mill property tax initiative in April designed to create funding for the local share of the project.

Local officials said St. John the Baptist Parish Government’s cost-share would be $50 million, with annual maintenance costs of $5 million.

However, the latest news out of Washington has not been as positive, local leaders say.

“Currently, President Trump’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year does not include funding for any Louisiana coastal projects, which includes the levee project that would protect St. John, St. James and St. Charles Parishes,” St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom said. “After more than 40 years, the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Risk Reduction Project received Congressional authorization and approval by President Obama in 2016. Residents are urged to contact Representatives and Senators and urge them to allocate funding for the Westshore Project.”

Robottom took public her request this week of all residents and business owners to contact the region’s federal delegation to advocate for funding the Westshore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Risk Reduction Project.

She highlighted U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, as well as U.S. Reps. Garret Graves and Cedric Richmond, while providing contact information and a sample letter.

Earlier this year in justifying the tax election call, Robottom said she didn’t want to go out to the people until there was a real project to back coming on the heels of a U.S. Corp of Engineers feasibility study and recommendation and Presidential signature.

A new Presidential administration and spending priorities have thrown that into flux.

“There are people who are truly afraid every time it rains,” Robottom said following the local tax’s passage. “There are people who have said they will not rebuild, they will not go through this again (if it floods) and that will determine the future of our community. This is one more step, but we are not truly finished until we have a levee that is protecting us.”

Contact information for Federal Delegation:

Senator Bill Cassidy, 520 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, Phone: 202-224-5824, Fax: 202-224-9735

Senator John Kennedy, SR383, Russell Senate Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, Phone: 202-224-4623, Fax: 202-228-0447

Congressman Garret Graves, 204 Cannon House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515, Phone: 202-225-3901, Fax: 202-225-7313

Congressman Cedric Richmond, 240 Cannon House Office Building,  Washington, D.C., 20515, Phone: 202-225-6636, Fax: 202-225-1988

A sample letter can be found at