The National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) and Army Corps of Engineers shows an abundance of hurricane activity along the Southern Shore of Louisiana. In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers created a map of potential stillwater elevations for a storm surge from a hurricane with a 1% chance of occurring that has a possibility to hit the New Orleans area in 2070. The 100-year storm would be a devastation to all areas surrounding Lake Pontchartrain if proposed new levees are not built.
Congress has before them $100 billion dollars in various flood protection projects that the corps plan to build nationally. Many of the projects would greatly help and reduce tragic loss during hurricane season in the Greater New Orleans area. Fortunately, in 2014, Congress approved the 2014 Water Resource Bill which was the first step in the process of authorizing a levee to be built. Due to an emergency supplemental appropriation that is linked to the recent devastation from hurricanes and floods, the West Shore levee has been approved and fully funded. The West shore project makes up only 1 % of the $100 billion in projects before Congress.
According to U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, the fast pace of the Congressional approval and funding for projects such as the West Shore levee is unheard of. Graves believes funding projects such as this should be the norm. It is reported that the nation spends billions on restoring homes, businesses and infrastructure loss due to hurricane flooding. If the nation spent just millions on flood projects beforehand many of the devastation could have been avoided. “This project pays for itself,” Graves said. “Think about the cumulative money spent picking up the pieces from Hurricane Isaac,” he said. “We cannot continue to spend billions in the aftermath of disasters. We have to spend millions in advance.”
The West Shore Lake Pontchartrain hurricane levee project is set to be completed by 2023 hurricane season. The $760 million-dollar project includes 17 miles of levee and a mile of concrete T-wall. It will mostly be located in St. John the Baptist parish which will include berms around Gramercy and Lutcher, a separate berm around Grand Point North and smaller berms around other smaller non-residential buildings. The 17-mile levee will separate populated areas west of I-10 from storm surges moving inland from Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas and adjacent wetlands.
The New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers’ office announced the project will begin construction by early 2021. According to Col. Michael Clancy the project will be divided into 11 smaller projects and will be under the local sponsor, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. According to the federal law, the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will pay 35% of construction cost, however the Army Corps of Engineers will pay construction cost upfront and will allow the local sponsor to repay them over a 30-year period upon completion of the project.
Once the project is complete the Pontchartrain district will control and operate the levees. St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom looks forward to what the future holds for this project. She feels it is the parish responsibility to allow its residents and business owners to participate in the $760 million-dollar project so the dollars spent will stay within the parish.
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