St. Charles Herald-Guide

Parish says all land acquired for Willowridge levee

By Kyle Barnett - August 3, 2012

The St. Charles Parish administration has acquired all land necessary to build the Willowridge portion of the project.

The parish is currently preparing for construction on the Willowridge portion of the levee project as early as the beginning of 2013 and hopes to solicit bids for a related pump station later in that year.

Though Councilman Shelley Tastet said the Corps of Engineers was holding up the project, parish officials disagreed and said preparations for the mitigation program, as well as a conservation easement, have been the real problems.

Simpson said that although plans to begin work on a section of the Willowridge phase are definite, the entire phase will not be ready to go until a federal court ruling is issued to modify an existing consent decree providing for a conversation easement on the land.

She said that notification of soil boring and testing is expected for the Willowridge phase of the levee as early as next week.

The nine-mile levee had been under consideration for decades before construction began on an unfinished part of the levee running behind Magnolia Ridge in Boutte. Parish administration said a second levee lift, pump station, flood gate, two pipeline crossings and a weir between the eastern and western drainage basins will complete that phase of the project.

As far as funding is concerned, Simpson said some parts of the project have received full funding while others are still waiting.

Funding has been secured from the state through the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s Statewide Flood Control Program in the amount of $6.7 million for the Willowridge phase of the levee and $5.8 million for the associated pump station. In addition, parish officials estimate that they will receive reimbursements of $2.6 million from an agreement with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Additional funding of $500,000 was secured through State Capital Outlay along with $525,000 in Priority 2 funding during the 2012 state legislative regular session. That funding is pending State Bond Commission approval later this year.

The parish has also planned on using $13.5 million from the 2012 budget to cover required matching shares and other non-reimbursable expenditures.

"With the current funding in place the parish can complete Phase 2 (Willowridge), as well as the mitigation and land acquisition costs for Phase 3 (Ellington)," Simpson said. "The parish is currently focusing on securing additional funding – both federal and state – for the construction of Phase 3."