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Parish Council backs $2M Ruddock well upgrade

EDGARD — St. John the Baptist Parish officials are in agreement regarding safety issues at the Ruddock well, which supplies water to 35,000 residents in LaPlace.

How to effectively address those concerns is a source of debate, with Parish President Natalie Robottom pushing to update the Lions plant in Reserve and Parish Council members leaning toward raising the electrical components in Ruddock and potentially building a ring levee around the pumps.

Parish Council members ultimately voted last week to proceed with a $2 million project to raise the electrical components in Ruddock.

Although they did not approve it last week, some Parish Council members are advocating for an additional $500,000 project to build a ring levee around the Ruddock components for additional flood proofing.

“I think we should do both (at the Ruddock) well and make us flood proof,” Councilman Larry Snyder said during the parish council meeting Tuesday (May 14) in Edgard.

Robottom is advocating for improvements to the Lions plant, which would have to include all new water lines running into LaPlace, the addition of several filters and purchasing property around to accommodate the filters, which would likely cost from $8 to $12 million and potentially run up to $22 million.

“Rather than investing another $2 million in a system (Ruddock) that has flooded numerous times and routinely has access issues, an alternate project (Lions plant) that provides a permanent solution inside the levee protection system is recommended,” Robottom said. “The money ($2 million that would be used at Ruddock) and the bond issue ($4 million) money would be better invested.”

She contends the Ruddock proposal did not address accessibility to the well during storm surge and flooding. A flood gate is planned for Old Highway 51 in the new levee protection project, which would likely be closed during flooding events.

“Rather than wasting money on a system that remains vulnerable to flooding, we recommend investing those funds in a project at the Lions plant, which can support LaPlace,” Robottom said. “It’s not if, but when the wells will flood again.”

Snyder said the culprit in Ruddock is not the pump but the aging water lines, which have experienced ruptures in the past that have caused outages. He said funds are available to raise the electrical components and that the engineering work has already been completed.

“All we need to do now is to do it,” Snyder added, making a motion to adopt his plan.

He also pointed out building a new plant in Reserve, which has been previously floated, is estimated to cost $50 million and up to $60 million in LaPlace.

Parish engineering consultant Joseph Savoy estimated completion time for improvements at Ruddock at about six to eight months. He said the proposed work at the Lions plant would take about two years once the Council signs off on the project and all of the funds are available.

“I know we have been talking about this for the past three years,” he said. “If we just sit, we will run out of time.”

He said the electrical boxes at Ruddock would be raised approximately 10 to 12 feet, well above the minimum height required by FEMA.

Robottom called the idea of upgrading Ruddock “reactionary,” claiming the Council was reacting to recent heavy rains that caused flooding in certain areas and closed parts of Old Highway 51.

The Council ultimately approved Snyder’s proposal.

Several minutes later, Council Chairman Tom Malik floated the idea of building ring levees around the Ruddock well to offer additional protection. He said the estimated cost for the levee, which Snyder called an “excellent idea,” is $500,000.

Councilman Larry Sorapuru Jr. said parish maintenance crews could potentially do the work and much of the required clay could be found in the parish.

— By Richard Meek