Wright: Strategic planning for St. John needed with West Shore Hurricane Protection Levee

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Economic growth is on the horizon for St. John, if we do our part.

The latest announcement that has excited the community is the full funding of the West Shore Hurricane Protection Levee that has been in the works for the last 40-plus years.

Projections from Congressman Garrett Graves and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are this project being completed by 2023.

This $760 million project will bring many direct and indirect jobs to our community.

The future planning of our parish and its infrastructure needs are hinged on this nearly $1 billion project.

We’re not out of the water yet; smart growth for St. John will be sustainable; however, we as leaders must do our part now. Drainage should continue to be a priority, even with a completed levee system.

What good is a multi-million dollar pumping station if water cannot reach the canals and basins to be pumped out?

Between now and 2023 we should be clearing every culvert and cleaning every ditch throughout our parish. Within the last year we successfully cleaned out every culvert under the interstate through St. John Parish, which is a great start.

Our current drinking water system will now be outside of our hurricane protection levee.

We need a water system that will be within our flood walls that can supply our entire parish, without being threatened to shut down at mother nature’s call.

Partnerships with the Pontchartrain Levee District, other key state agencies and the Federal Government will be vital for us and our future leaders during this transition phase for St. John Parish.

FEMA re-mapping will need to take place to lower the base flood elevations that will in turn lower flood insurance across the board for residents.

Key financial planning will need to be a priority in managing not only these projects, but planning the long term cost as our levee match was financed to us over 30 years.

There will be a large annual maintenance cost to ensure fully functional pumping stations and flood gates.

The future of our parish is hinged on today and tomorrow’s actions.

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