West Shore Levee Project now estimated to cost $3.7 billion, Corps of Engineers reports

Published 12:42 pm Friday, July 14, 2023

Construction to continue unimpeded as additional funds sought

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently completed an updated certified total project cost for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain hurricane and storm damage risk reduction system.

To deliver the project to its authorized levee elevations and complete the system’s pump stations and drainage structures, approximately $1.27 billion in additional funding will be required.  Another $1.7 billion will be needed for environmental impact mitigation efforts and future levee lifts to ensure the authorized level of risk reduction is maintained for the duration of the project’s 50-year design life.

“An increase in project cost has become common throughout the Nation, for not only Corps of Engineers constructed projects, but also for goods and services due to ongoing supply chain issues,” said Col. Cullen Jones, New Orleans District Commander.  “We will continue to press forward in completing the ongoing work as well as awarding new construction contracts while simultaneously pursuing every option for securing additional funds required to deliver this system that will reduce hurricane storm damage risk for more than 60,000 residents in St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist parishes.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 committed $760 million for design and construction of the storm damage risk reduction system. These funds have been applied towards more than $100 million in active construction, including building three levee reaches and pile load testing at the site of two new pump stations.  Moving forward, the available funds will be used to award an additional five construction contracts by early fiscal year 2024 and to finalize the system’s design.

“Construction has begun to provide the 100-year level risk reduction to the River Parishes and we remain committed to seeing this critical project through to the finish,” said Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Chairman Bren Haase. “The importance of the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain project to the River parish region cannot be overstated, and together with the Corps, the Pontchartrain Levee District and all of our partners, we will work diligently to secure the funding needed to complete it.”

The initial project cost established during the study process was based on 2014 economic conditions and preliminary designs to determine the feasibility of the project.  The updated total project cost of $3.7 billion is a refined project cost that includes the future levee lifts, operations, maintenance, and monitoring costs, as well as advanced engineering designs, real world geotechnical and real estate data, updated mitigation costs and projected inflation through the midpoint of the overall construction.

The completed West Shore Lake Pontchartrain project will provide a 1-percent level of risk reduction through a combination of structural and non-structural features to include: levees, floodwalls, and pumps. Contracts completed include levee test sections, clay stockpiles, sand stockpiles, sand placement, and access road construction.

Factors that significantly contributed to the increased costs needed to deliver the project include the following:

Future Levee Lifts – To maintain the elevations needed for the 1% level of risk reduction, the earthen levees will require periodic lifts. The feasibility level design was based on a need of 2.5 million cubic yards of material for future levee lifts.  Based on collected soil borings and geotechnical data, USACE determined that approximately 5.4 million cubic yards is required to deliver and maintain the levee elevations required for the authorized levels of risk reduction.  This increased quantity of levee material represents an increased cost of approximately $1.3 billion.

Pump Stations – A key design component of the WSLP is the construction of two pump stations.  During detailed design, USACE doubled the total pumping capacity of the project to 4,000 cubic feet per second.  This increase in pumping capacity as well as the incorporation of corrosion lessons learned resulted in an increase of approximately $350 million.

Mitigation:  The initial 2014 cost for mitigation increased approximately $700 million.  The cost increase is related to construction impacts to Bottom Land Hardwood, Cypress Tupelo Swamp, and Marsh.

Additional costs:  Additional factors such as inflation, updated labor market considerations, relocations and initial construction of levees and floodwalls contributed to the cost increase by approximately $650 million.

For more information on the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain project: