In a presentation to St. Charles Parish council members, project manager Frank Duarte said the Corps is in the final stages of analyzing the pros and cons of two top alternatives, one running along Hwy 90 near populated areas, and one across the Barataria Basin further south and closer to the Gulf of Mexico.
Duarte highlighted the advantages of the levee that would run through the Barataria Basin along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, also known as the “GIWW alignment.”
According to Duarte, this “shortcut levee” is straighter and shorter - only 23 miles long, verses 53 miles for the Hwy 90 levee alignment. This became especially important since the cost of fill increased from $9 a cubic yard to $28 a cubic yard after Hurricane Katrina, said Duarte. Another advantage is the shorter levee would include Lafitte and would protect the most people, 347,000 residents.
Council members Snookie Faucheux and Brian Fabre told Duarte that they were in favor of the shortcut levee. But Faucheux said that west bank neighborhoods still would need to be protected from Lakes Salvador and Cataouachi.
"If we don't have a levee between the wetland/development line, a hurricane could push the waters from these shallow lakes into our neighborhoods like what happened to the north shore," Faucheux said, explaining that Katrina's strong winds pushed the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into surrounding neighborhoods on the north shore, causing major flooding. He called this "The slosh effect".
At the meeting Monday night Duarte cited flood-control projects in Holland that often use two lines of protection in case one is breached.
"Since the GIWW levee would be close to the Gulf of Mexico, if a big storm comes it would hit that first. St. Charles Parish local levees would offer secondary protection in the event the primary protection fails," he explained.
Environmentalists not keen on alignments
But Barry Kohl, president of the Louisiana Council of Environmentalists, told the St. Charles Herald-Guide that the environmental community would not support either of these alignments. Environmental groups would only approve levees built along the edge of developed areas.
According to Kohl, the groups he represents don't support building a levee across the wetlands, which is what the shortcut levee would do, and the Hwy 90 alignment could cause water to back-up in Des Allemands, he said.
And Kohl says the law is on his side - there's legislation on the books to prevent either of these levee alignments from being built.
"Any structure that would change the 'hydraulics' of the wetlands cannot be built," said Kohl.
"We don't have to fight it, it's already law," he explained.
"The reason they (St. Charles Parish) are in this predicament in the first place is because they let the land developers and contractors build the homes without adequate protection," he emphasized.
"The prudent way of approaching this would be to build the hurricane levee behind the developed areas and manage the coast with coastal restoration, " he said, adding, "It just goes on and on.
“ I've seen this for 30 years. They drain the marsh and build houses on it. How far south and how close to the Gulf are we going to subsidize development?"
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