West Shore Levee construction to ramp up in 2023

Published 5:15 pm Friday, January 27, 2023

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LAPLACE — A three-foot sand base will exist along the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Levee alignment by the end of this year, paving the way for the levee to be built to a six-foot elevation in 2024.

Gaps will still exist by flood gates, pumps and other drainage structures until 2026, when the levee is expected to reach completion with elevations of approximately 8 feet closest to Hope Canal on the western end of the alignment and approximately 14 feet approaching the Bonnet Carre Spillway on the Eastern end.

The West Shore Levee Project took a major step forward in the final days of 2022 when the first levee construction contract was awarded to Lemoine-Frazier LLC of Lafayette for WSLP-110, a one-mile reach located near Garyville.

Once complete, the entire levee will extend 17.5 miles from the Bonnet Carre Spillway to Garyville, achieving 100-year risk reduction for more than 60,000 River Parishes residents.

The contract awarded to Lemoine-Frazier LLC was in the amount of $9,351,590. The one-mile reach will require approximately 87,000 cubic yards of borrow material and is expected to reach completion in 2024.

West Shore Levee Project Manager Bradley Drouant Sr. said the award of the first construction contract was “the culmination of years of preparatory work by our team, including CPRA, Pontchartrain Levee District, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

“The work visible just west of the Bonnet Carrė spillway is just the first hint of what’s to come,” Drouant said.

He asked the public to be aware of dump trucks entering and exiting the highway as construction efforts ramp up in 2023.

This month, advertising began for the second levee construction contract, WSLP-107. This reach is located north of Reserve, stretching from the Mississippi Bayou Drainage Structure to the Reserve Relief Canal Navigation Gate. During the January 2023 stakeholder meeting, Drouant said the target bid opening and award dates will be February 7 and February 21, respectively.

Levee construction contract awards are expected to continue through Summer 2023.

Drouant also shared that sand placement contracts one and two have reached completion over the past month. Two of the three stockpile contracts are complete, and the pile load test contract is moving forward with the construction of a road extending to the I-55 Pump Station.

Part of laying the groundwork for levee construction was the development of nine access roads connecting state highways and Interstate 10 to the site of the levee alignment. As of January 2023, five of the nine access roads are complete, and the four still being worked on are 95% complete.

This month also marked a major milestone for mitigation efforts related to the West Shore Project. On January 23, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District announced that a Record of Decision was signed to approve the Maurepas Diversion.

Adopting the Maurepas Diversion as the swamp mitigation feature of the West Shore Levee Project compensates for “unavoidable impacts to swamp habitat,” according to a USACE press release. The 2,000 cubic foot per second freshwater diversion is intended to not only restore the swamp ecosystem surrounding levee construction, but also increase its resiliency by reconnecting the Mississippi River to the Maurepas Swamp.

Resiliency was a main factor in the Disaster Supplemental Funds awarded in early 2022. According to U.S. Congressman Garret Graves, another $450 million was allocated to cover implementation of resiliency features as well as increased costs of construction for the project, which was previously considered fully federally funded at $760 million in 2018. When the supplemental funds were allocated, $3 million was also provided for a re-evaluation report focused on resiliency.

With the Maurepas Diversion now approved, a feasibility cost share agreement between the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the Pontchartrain Levee District is expected to be executed on January 31.