Hurricanes cost parish $10 million
St. Pierre says Corps will pick levee alignment by spring of 2009
Parish President V. J. St. Pierre
As the parish attempts to recover from both storms, St. Pierre says that the parish should find out which alignment will be picked for the Donaldsonville to the Gulf Hurricane Protection Levee by next year.
“I have met with the Army Corps of Engineers and a spokesman from the Lafourche Levee District last Tuesday since both storms,” St. Pierre said. “They informed us that a levee alignment will be picked by the spring of 2009 for the Donaldsonville to the Gulf Hurricane Protection Levee.”
St. Pierre has been working hard to build and maintain a cordial relationship with the Corps - a relationship he feels has had its share of difficulties over the years.
“We haven't really had a good working relationship with the Corps for the past 12 years in St. Charles Parish,” he said. “I know that we're working on that and things are getting better now.”
When it comes to levee protection, St. Pierre says he plans to work more closely with Steve Wilson of the Pontchartrain Levee District.
“One of the main things I want to do in my four years as parish president is work hard to get permits to start building levee protection on the West Bank,” he said. “That's one of my main priorities.”
The relationship between the Corps and the parish is extremely important because the two hurricanes showed just how vulnerable the parish is to severe storms. But as bad as it may have appeared to some residents, only six homes in the parish experienced flooding. All of those homes were located on Bayou Gauche island.
“The EOC (Emergency Operations Center) has some sophisticated computer equipment, so sophisticated that every house in St. Charles Parish is on that system,” he said. “So, we know the elevation of every structure in St. Charles Parish.”
St. Pierre says that system helps parish officials determine how high water will be in a particular subdivision.
“That information is then used to distribute sandbags to flood-prone areas before a storm event,” he said. “If someone's home is elevated to four feet, and a storm comes and it's expected to have a six-foot surge, there will be two feet of water in that home.”
St. Pierre says storm surge makes it necessary to order mandatory evacuations.
“We know how expensive it is for families to leave with the price of gas and the cost of hotels and food,” he said. “We did our best and were successful in reopening the parish to residents as quickly as we could.”
Spending time in the basement of the courthouse, with EOC director Tab Troxler and his staff during the storm, also illustrated the need for better housing for parish workers.
“We know we definitely need a new Emergency Operations Center,” St. Pierre said. “We met with Gov. Jindal and he asked us about our concerns and that was one of things we talked to him about when he made a visit here last week.”
St. Pierre says Troxler has already secured $750,000 towards the project.
“If we're going to ask our workers to stay behind, we need to make sure there's adequate shelter for them,” he said. “The workers that stayed behind were housed in Eual Landry in Hahnville. There was a huge kitchen in the building where food could be prepared, but no shower facilities.”
St. Pierre says he plans to look into incorporating some of those necessities for parish workers in the future.
“We have some hard working parish employees,” he said. “Some of them have been working 60 hours nonstop the past month and are still going.”
St. Pierre says paying for the overtime is costly.
“We have a staff of 42 essential parish employees,” he said. “Out of those 42, there were 39 parish employees that stayed behind. Those employees that didn't stay behind will have action taken against them.”
The parish also successfully evacuated, fed and housed more than 400 parish residents.
“When it was time to evacuate, we picked residents up on buses, housed them in Marksville, and fed them three meals a day,” he said. “This couldn't have been accomplished without the help and support of the parish workers.”
But the cost to evacuate, feed and house residents for six days was expensive.
“FEMA will reimburse some of those cost, like for feeding the residents,” he said. “But the remainder of the debt was incurred by the parish.”
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