The St. Charles Parish Council delayed a vote on an ordinance that would try to close the Sunset Drainage District Levee after cost estimates for the projects varied by nearly $30 million.
Current FEMA flood maps recognize the levee, but a proposed map would not. The levee has been in place for nearly 100 years and residents in the area say they have never flooded before.
The majority of the homes built within the district were constructed at a minimum height of 12 feet above the street in accordance with parish requirements, Councilman Paul Hogan, who introduced the ordinance, said. New base flood elevations proposed by FEMA are well above the finish floor elevation of the majority of homes in the district. Because of that many residents in the area, which includes Des Allemands, Bayou Gauche and Paradis, are faced with premium rate increases that could have some paying nearly $30,000 per year in flood insurance.
Hogan’s ordinance sought to close the Sunset levee by construction of a replacement bulkhead in Des Allemands along Bayou Des Allemands. He also wants the parish to construct a floodwall along Badeaux Lane East with a floodgate crossing LA 306 with the floodwall tying into the levee.
The ordinance also calls for a hump in Highway 90 near the Paradis Canal, which would elevate the levee, and raising the crown of the Sunset Drainage District to the proposed base flood elevations. Hogan believes the projects would cost around $10 million to construct.
He said the money to complete these projects would come out of the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee fund, which has a current balance of $27 million. However, parish officials say all of that money is currently needed to construct the Willowridge Levee in Luling.
Around 30 residents from Des Allemands, Bayou Gauche and Paradis spoke in favor of Hogan’s ordinance at Monday’s meeting.
"I invested my life in this parish for 28 years. I care about the people that live here," David Wedge said. "This is an opportunity to make it right. It’s important that we save this district."
Ann Morvant echoed Wedge’s sentiments.
"We shouldn’t even be in this predicament. We did everything by the rules," she said. "At this point in time, this is our only chance to save our homes."
Lynn Hebert said those council members who vote against the ordinance are not only telling Hogan "no."
"You are telling all these people from Bayou Gauche, Des Allemands and Paradis ‘no,’" she said. "You are telling me ‘no.’"
Two residents did speak against the ordinance, saying the $10 million is needed to construct the Willowridge Levee. The parish plans to go out for bids on the project soon and begin construction in July or August. The Willowridge Levee has an estimated price tag of $29 million.
After the public hearing, St. Charles Parish Public Works Director Sam Scholle went over a presentation that estimated the cost of all four Sunset levee projects at $39 million. Scholle lives in the Sunset Drainage District area.
But after the presentation Hogan stuck with his original price estimate, saying that his numbers may not be entirely accurate, but that they were pretty close to the $10 million figure he quoted. Hogan said the parish’s estimate included several items that were not needed. He also said that the parish administration never informed him of their $39 million estimate before Monday’s meeting. He heard about it when everyone else in the audience heard about it, Hogan said.
Hogan did agree to table the issue so that he can take some time to show the rest of the council where he got his $10 million price estimate.