River Parishes flood project could be done by 2023 hurricane season
LAPLACE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - An 18-mile levee to protect land near Lake Pontchartrain from storm surges could be finished by the 2023 hurricane season, an Army Corps of Engineers district commander said Monday.
The $760 million West Shore Hurricane Protection Project will stretch from the Bonnet Carre Spillway in St. Charles Parish to the Hope Canal in St. John the Baptist Parish. Congress agreed to include the project’s full cost in a $2.6 billion supplemental spending bill earlier this year, nearly half a century since its first pitch.
"Now we get to do what we all became engineers to do, which was to build stuff," said Col. Michael Clancy, who leads the Corps' New Orleans district.
The project will be designed to shield the area from floodwaters during storms similar to Hurricane Isaac in 2012, which led thousands of residents to flee their homes.
"Think about the cumulative amount of money that you spent picking up the pieces," Rep. Garret Graves (R-Baton Rouge) said at a Monday news conference in LaPlace. "Think about the vulnerability of that next hurricane that potentially comes into Lake Pontchartrain and threatens our community."
"This project pays for itself," Graves added.
St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom said parish officials were so set on this project that they were willing to fund it squarely at the parish level, even passing a property tax hike to fund it. But she contends that the federal stream will provide a more sound option. Since the money will come right away, she said residents may soon find themselves paying less for flood insurance before crews even break ground.
"That’s another aspect of why this is so important — and so important that we get this funding upfront," Robottom said. "We can take these steps to ease the burden on our residents."
Construction could start as early as 2020. Louisiana will be charged 35 percent of the project’s cost, though the state has 30 years to pay the bill.