Western Tie-In flooding still concerns officials

August 05, 2011 at 9:12 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded an $8.3 million levee contract that will connect the West Bank and Vicinity hurricane protection levee into the Mississippi River levee in Ama.

It is the final piece of the puzzle for the Western Tie-In project, which will protect Ama from storm surge but has caused concern among St. Charles Parish officials who believe it will increase flooding in the parish during a storm event.

The nine-month contract calls for a ramp crossing for Louisiana 18 on the east side of the Davis Pond Diversion Canal. It also involves building a swing gate to close off the nearby railroad in the event of a hurricane.
Construction is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2012.

The Western Tie-In consists of 4.5 miles of levees and floodwalls along the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion Canal and Outer Cataouatche Canal, as well as a navigable closure structure across Bayou Verret, an elevated crossing at Highway 90, two railroad gates and a second highway crossing that ties into the Mississippi River Levee. 

The total construction value of the project is an estimated $140 million.

Officials and residents are worried that the  system of levees and floodwalls that will follow the contour of the Davis Pond Diversion from the Lake Cataouatche levee south of Waggaman to the Mississippi River levee near Ama will cause additional flooding in St. Charles.

The parish doesn’t have any protection on the western side of the diversion and it would seem that the storm surge stacking up against the tie-in would have to go somewhere, officials have said. While the parish recently secured a permit to construct a levee in Luling, the large price tag means completion is several years away.

Meanwhile, the tie-in is scheduled to be complete in 2012.

“I am extremely concerned about the impact the Western Tie-In might have on the West Bank of St. Charles Parish, especially in the Luling area,” Councilman Dennis Nuss said. “The Corps of Engineers has insisted that the tie-in will have almost no impact on water levels, but I share the concerns of many residents and business owners in the area that a significant storm event could create more flooding than usual since the water really has nowhere else to go. 

“I have expressed this concern to the corps on at least three separate occasions.”

Another concern is why St. Charles wasn’t included in the project in the first place. Councilman Terry Authement said that the numerous plants and industry residing in St. Charles make the area important for the national economy and that it doesn’t make sense for the tie-in to end in Ama and not continue through other communities on the parish’s West Bank.

By having a majority of the parish left out, Authement said the West Bank of St. Charles could be turned into a spillway during a large storm event.

“The reason you open the spillway for the river is to relieve pressure so that you don’t flood something down river,” he said. “In this application, by not having the project continue through St. Charles, we are a spillway.

“The water is going to be diverted somewhere and that’s us.”

Councilman Shelley Tastet agreed.

“It will put more pressure on our side,” he said. “A big storm will send water from (Jefferson Parish) through Willowdale, Willowridge and Ellington.”

The corps has said that they performed hydraulic modeling that showed the effects a 100-year storm would cause now and the effects it would cause once the tie-in is complete.

Tie-in project manager Jeff Williams said that the results showed only minimal changes in water level in St. Charles Parish.

But Authement and other officials aren’t convinced.

“Even if it only changes the water levels 2 or 3 inches, it’s magnified because we are left to bear the burden by ourselves because everyone surrounding us has protection,” Authement said.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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