Parish Council takes next step in water system improvements

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 13, 2021

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LAPLACE — This past Tuesday night, St. John Parish Council members adopted resolutions authorizing the parish to advertise for land acquisition services as well as identify potential funding sources for the proposed water system improvements.

Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said both resolutions represent major steps in moving the project forward.

“It is a comprehensive approach to our water problems,” Hotard said. “We know that we have some infrastructure needs in our water systems, especially (because) the LaPlace water source will be outside of the hurricane protection area, so this will address that one problem.

“Then we also know we would like to increase capacity and there is some struggle we have with some compliance with the Lyons system, so this will be a comprehensive approach to take care of all our needs.”

Hotard said the initial water improvement study began in 2016 and a pilot required by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality testing the reverse osmosis system treating water from the Mississippi River was completed in 2020.

“And so this is continuing along that path of improvements,” she said. “Reverse osmosis is a good treatment system.”

As a council member in 2012, Hotard recognized the vulnerabilities of having a water system situated outside of the hurricane protection system. A process was implemented to identify another path forward specifically for the LaPlace water system because it is located in Ruddock and the water is pumped through several miles of piping, which has created problems in the past.

Long term, Hotard is hoping to comingle the LaPlace and Lyons systems to provide redundancy.

Rob Delaune with Digital Engineering said each resolution represents progress toward locating a Mississippi River water source in LaPlace. He said infrastructure will have to be built near the river, in addition to an intake pump station and clarifiers.

He said land will have to be purchased to build the infrastructure, and land will also have to be purchased near the current reverse osmosis treatment plant for the Mississippi River water source which will serve LaPlace.

“For Lyons (which services the Reserve area) there are some needed improvements to help improve the treatment process as well as some of the issues the plant has to ensure the Lyons plant can provide good quality water for the next 20 years,” he said.

Figuero estimated the final cost for the project to check in at $53 million.

In other council action, a resolution was approved authorizing Hotard to sign documents associated with the execution of an intergovernmental agreement with the Pontchartrain Levee District for temporary road and work easements for construction of the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System.

Hotard explained the massive $760 million project is 65% percent funded by the federal government and 35% funded by two non-federal sponsors, including the Pontchartrain Levee District.

She said the parish is currently responsible for $2 million, which includes half of the costs associated with land rights, easements, rights of way, land appraisals. relocation costs, disposal areas and maintenance of the levees.

“We are being proactive and getting a head start by granting the temporary right of ways and easements,” Hotard said. “We are doing our part to move it along and not hold up anything on our end.”

She said the affiliated costs are coming out of the levee millage.

Another resolution will allow the Parks and Recreation Department to expand its number of registrants. The parish is entering into a no-cost agreement with New Wine Christian Fellowship to utilize its gym in conjunction with REGALA Gymnasium for basketball practices and games.