St. Charles Parish plans to go out for construction bids next month on the first phase of the Willowridge levee, assuming a judge rules in the parish’s favor regarding a portion of the land needed for the project.
The lawsuit in question seeks to overturn a conservation easement put in place by a federal judge in response to Clean Water Act violations by Rathborne Land Co., the company responsible for the development of the Willowridge and Willowdale subdivisions in Luling.
The 375-acre conservation easement was put in place in 2000 in order to preserve area wetlands from future destruction. To facilitate construction, St. Charles Parish has joined with the Lafourche Basin Levee District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice to request that the federal court remove a nine-acre strip of land from the conservation easement behind homes on Cypress Drive to enable levee construction. In anticipation of this request, the parish has purchased wetland mitigation to offset the removal of those acres.
Parish officials say they are confident that a judge would rule in their favor in June.
According to Mark Roberts, the vice president of Burk-Kleinpeter, an engineering firm working with the parish, the first phase of the Willowridge levee will consist of clearing and grubbing the right of way and the construction of a 5.5-foot-levee berm from Peterson Canal to an existing berm behind Willowridge Drive. Construction of this phase should begin in August.
The second phase includes the construction of a pump station and detention pond that will take some of the pressure off of the nearby Cousins Pump Station. The third phase will take the levee from Willowridge Drive to Davis Pond. This portion will also be constructed to 5.5 feet.
The fourth phase will raise the levee to 7 feet and the final phase will fortify the interior of the levee.
Roberts also said that several steps will be taken to ensure that the Willowridge and Willowdale neighborhoods remain safe during construction. The roadways will be watered and the area will be swept weekly. All trucks traveling through the neighborhood will have to keep their speeds at 15 miles per hour or lower. Materials used for construction will also be hauled in sealed trucks.
The construction cost for all five phases of the Willowridge levee is estimated at $29 million.