Local and federal officials gathered Monday to celebrate a major milestone in securing full funding for long-awaited hurricane and flood protection for the River Parishes area.
Few can forget the catastrophic flooding that occurred in August 2012 when Hurricane Isaac swelled the waters of Lake Pontchartrain causing a huge storm surge that invaded nearby communities.
"Caused record storm surge in Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas and forced water into some 7,000 homes and businesses,” said St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom in reflecting on the flood damage that prompted a visit by then-President Barack Obama.
Now six years later, a celebration among local and federal officials because the state of Louisiana will get $1.4 billion in federal dollars for flood protection.
The lion’s share of the funding, almost $800 million will fund the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection Project which is to protect St. John Parish from storm surge.
"We have a great position out of these dollars and in addition to this big project, which it is our number one project,” said Robottom.
“This project is designed to protect against the one-percent storm, the hundred year storm on the west shore of Lake Pontchartrain, hence the name, it’s basically from the Bonnet Carre Spillway until around Garyville, about 18 miles of new levee, a couple of pump stations and drainage structures,” said Col. Michael Clancy, Commander of the New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
River Parishes leaders said the project has been in the making for over 40 years.
Monday afternoon they gave a lot of credit to Congressman Garret Graves for helping to push it across the finish line, in terms of securing the needed federal funding.
"This project pays for itself and let me be clear about that. Think about the cumulative amount of money you've spent picking up the pieces, that we've spent picking up the pieces from Hurricane Isaac,” said Rep. Graves, R-Louisiana.
And Parish President Robottom believes the full funding of the flood protection project will benefit people who pay for flood insurance in that area.
"We're one of the few areas with no levee protection and without the risk reduction in place then our risks are higher,” said Robottom.
And in anticipation of the federal funding voters in St. John Parish approved a property tax to fund the local share of the flood protection project.