Wright: Levee funding is win for all

Published 12:16 am Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The recent news of the $760 million full funding allocation to the West Shore Levee Project caught many, including local leaders by surprise.

In a July 5 press release, Congressman Garret Graves announced nearly $3 billion in federal funding for Louisiana, which was labeled “one of the largest flood protection investments in Louisiana history.”

“$1.4 billion in new federal funding and $1.5 billion in recently announced flood protection and mitigation funding” the press release stated.

Congressman Garret Graves, who represents most of the areas flooded by Hurricane Isaac, chairs the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps of Engineers has given an estimated timeframe of 3-5 years for West Shore Levee project completion of design and construction.

How big is this for St. John? This is HUGE.

Discussions of a levee for St. John began a little over 40 years ago, which until 2008, was on a fast track to nowhere.

The previous administration allocated funding and expedited the completion of the study, which was necessary to move this project along. Since then, the current administration and previous and current Council have made significant efforts to lobby Congress and the Senate for completion of a Chief’s Report, and for congressional appropriations.

December of 2016 was another milestone for the West Shore project when it received Congressional Authorization to move the project forward. The last 10 years have been a significant time in history for our West Shore Levee Project. Congressman Graves hit the home run for St. John, closely working with the White House and Army Corps of Engineers leadership. Thank you Congressman Graves for working so diligently for the River Region.

Make no mistake, leading up to this significant point in time has been challenging.

Hurricane Isaac proved our vulnerability to high lake tides and storm surges. During normal rain events and high tides, our dilapidated drainage systems have struggled with sending water away from roadways and residences.

The levee millage St. John Residents approved will go towards $2 million per year for maintenance. We must continue to promote the significance of the River Region on a national scale.

We are the home to the Port of South Louisiana, the largest tonnage port district in the Western Hemisphere, and house some of the nation’s largest refineries. We are the I-10 connector from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and the entrance to I-55.

Levee protection will provide sustainability for our local and national economy. Protection for the River Region is protection for our national economy.

Adequate flood protection and lower flood insurance rates are on the horizon, St. John!

• Water Meter Reading and Billing Systems have continued to be a hot topic. Parish Officials continue to make strides to have 100 percent meters read consistently every billing cycle until a permanent solution is put in place.

A workshop was held June 26 with options being presented. Among the presentations is an AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) system. This system is an automated system that reads your meter every hour through a fixed network that allows two-way communication.

This system would allow every resident to have a visual reading of their bill every hour, real time. Leak detection software would notify the resident within 24 hours of continuous high amounts of water use.

The only way this type of infrastructure would work would be requiring a maintenance plan be put in place. This type of real-time data would be useful to residents. Lifespan projects to 20 years as well as a warranty plan provided as well.

Long term cost projections and comparisons show this type of AMI system is efficient and will generate a long term savings to the parish, if it is maintained properly.

Michael P. Wright is St. John the Baptist Parish Council District 5 representative. Contact him at District5@sjbparish.com or m.wright@sjbparish.com.