St. Charles Parish is hopeful that a federal court will rule in their favor in the next few weeks regarding a conservation easement that has held up construction of the Willowridge Levee in Luling.
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. On Wednesday, evidence was presented and testimony was given related to the needed modification of the consent decree against Rathborne Land Company. The parish says that this is the final action needed for the parish to go out for bid on the first phase of the Willowridge Levee. If a favorable ruling is issued, the parish will go out for construction bids in July or August. The Willowridge phase, which received permit approval in 2011, is designed to enclose 27 acres of wetlands near the Davis Pond Diversion canal and another 23 acres of retention area south of the intersection of Willowdale Boulevard and Beaupre Drive. 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.