After over 24 hours of steady rain and constant swirling wind that kept pushing water again and again against the Mandeville Lakefront shoreline, the walking and biking path bridge that currently spans the Ravine Aux Coquille adjacent to Lakeshore Drive in Old Mandeville is in need of repair from Hurricane Isaac’s effects. As part of the network of walking, biking, and riding paths that wind throughout the entire Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain – the Tammany Trace – this pedestrian bridge is a highly trafficked piece of real estate in the area and could be dangerous to residents and visitors alike if it were to fall into disrepair. Originally a corridor for the Illinois Central Railroad, the Tammany Trace is now a hike and bike trail that spans from downtown Covington, through Abita Springs, Mandeville and Lacombe and ends in Slidell. Also, a separate equestrian path parallels the Trace in several places.
That is where the Mandeville City Council comes in. The Council has just approved a contracted bid by Sealevel Construction Inc., of Thibodeaux for $235,964 to completely replace the bridge. Because the damage was incurred by Hurricane Isaac, 75% of the cost will be covered by FEMA funding. Residents of Old Mandeville are deeply concerned about the implications of any construction that may be done in and around the lakefront area and for good reason. During the over 24 hours of rainfall during the hurricane, the Mandeville lakefront received over 4’ of water which stayed for the duration of the storm. The recently constructed downstairs bar of The Lakehouse, originally a restaurant and casino built on the lakefront in the 1800’s, was completely demolished and swept away, leaving nothing but studs sticking out the floor where the bar once stood. And this is an “every time occurrence” for this location no matter what sort of structure is constructed on the bottom floor of the restaurant.
Because of this and other extensive lakefront flooding, such as the flooding of Fontainebleau Park and the renovation of the beach and facilities there, there is currently a study being performed by GEC Engineers to address and provide options for the problem of storm surge on the lakefront throughout St. Tammany Parish. To be on the safe side, Mandeville city engineer Henry DiFranco assured concerned citizens during the Council meeting that the bridge project would have no impact on GEC’s recommendations, but he said he would discuss the issue with the engineers before work began on the bridge.