Contracts awarded in preparation for levee construction;Early data shows Ida storm surge did not exceed Levee design height

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 6, 2021

LAPLACE — Early data indicates that storm surge from Hurricane Ida was below the height of the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Levee Project design.

Anticipated to reach completion in 2024, the West Shore Levee alignment will range from 8.5 feet tall on the western end of St. John the Baptist Parish to 12.5 feet tall on the eastern end, closest to Lake Pontchartrain. The design of the St. James Parish portion remains unchanged with a height of 6.5 feet.

St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard attended a recent stakeholder meeting for the West Shore Levee Project, which is continuing to progress in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

“It was reassuring to see that the levee would have protected us even in a worst-case scenario like this, a Category Four storm going right up Port Fourchon,” Hotard said. “I want to give residents some hope and reassurance that this project is still moving forward with deliberate speed to get this flood protection so people can have comfort and confidence in rebuilding their homes and continuing to invest in St. John Parish.”

As the levee design process continues, tweaks are being made to ensure a high level of flood protection for more than 60,000 residents in St. John, St. James and St. Charles parishes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District shared that the updated design calls for two pumping stations — one at the Reserve Relief Canal and another along I-55, with a combined capacity for pumping 4,000 cubic feet of water per second (cfs). The West Shore Levee Project feasibility report previously called for a combined pumping capacity of only 2,150 cfs.

On September 28, a 160-day West Shore Levee Test Section contract was awarded to Quality First Construction of Covington in the amount of $3,640,190.42.

Senior Project Manager Bradley Drouant of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the test sections will be built along the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain levee alignment to provide important information on materials and methods related to construction. The contract was awarded to minimize delays in anticipation of the completion of Access Road J, which is located near the sugar cane fields and River Forest Subdivision in LaPlace.

“While this work is ongoing, we are continuing to advance the designs of the levees and our partners at Pontchartrain Levee District and CPRA continue to acquire necessary rights-of-way so that additional levee construction can begin this spring,” Drouant said.

On August 27, just two days before Hurricane Ida struck, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a 365-day access road contract to Justin J. Reeves LLC of Houma. The $11,689,631.25 firm-fixed-price contract consists of a base contract of $5,515,379.80, and completion of the work is anticipated for 2022.

Construction of access roads is an important first step toward beginning levee construction midyear 2022. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, construction of access roads A, B and C are underway, with the contractor expected to mobilize this month.

Three stockpile contracts have been awarded. Two for clay stockpiling were awarded in December 2019 and September 2020, respectively, and a sand stockpiling contract was awarded in February 2021.

Next steps will likely include awarding sand placement contracts to get the levee base out of the marsh while the design process continues.

For more information on the West Shore Levee Project, visit www.mvn.usace.army.mil/About/Projects/BBA-2018/West-Shore-Lake-Pontchartrain