A two decades-long wait has come to an end after the St. Charles Parish Council cleared the way for construction to begin on the first phase of the Willowridge Levee in Luling.
On Monday, the council awarded a contract to Southern Delta Construction, LLC to perform the work for $5.8 million. That total is about $2.5 million less than the project’s estimated cost.
Work is scheduled to begin in early January and state grants will cover about 70 percent of the cost.
“After decades of red tape, indecisiveness and obstacles, it may be an understatement to say that we are excited to get started with construction of the Willowridge phase of the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee,” Parish President V.J. St. Pierre said. “The events of the past year with regard to flood insurance, as well as the prevalent flooding issues in Willowridge itself, clearly show the economic and physical vulnerability of the area and the dire need for hurricane protection.”
The first phase of the Willowridge Levee will consist of clearing and grubbing the right of way and construction of a 5.5-foot-levee berm for two miles from Peterson Canal to an existing berm behind Willowridge Drive. There will be temporary gaps at Willowridge Drive and Cypress Drive to keep the current drainage flow in tact until the entire levee can be completed.
During the levee’s construction, traffic will increase significantly on Willowdale Boulevard as dump trucks carrying materials and dirt make their way to the construction site. On Monday, the council also lowered the speed limit for vehicles carrying 10,000 pounds in weight from 25 miles per hour to 15 miles per hour from East Heather Drive to Lafayette Street.
Steps are also being taken to ensure safety of neighborhood residents during construction Roadways will be watered and the area will be swept weekly. Materials used for construction will be hauled in sealed trucks.
After the first phase is completed, the parish will begin construction of a second phase that includes building a pump station and detention pond. The parish has an agreement in place with DOTD to fund the Willowridge pump station for about $5.7 million. The parish will have to pay to build the pump station but will be reimbursed as construction moves along.
The third phase of the project calls for the construction of a 5.5-foot-levee from Willowridge Drive to Davis Pond. The fourth phase will raise the entire levee to 7 feet and the final phase will fortify the interior of the levee.
The entire Willowridge levee, which received permit approval in 2011, will be built in five phases and 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. All five phases of the Willowridge levee were estimated to cost $29 million.
When complete, the levee will protect 364 homes and four miles of public streets located in Luling.
“When I was elected as parish president in 2008, the levee was first on the list of goals we put forth as an administration. I am happy to say that today – with the help of many individuals and their hard work — we can celebrate another step in making good on that promise,” St. Pierre said. “I would ask residents to stay alert for more information from the parish not only about construction impacts in the Luling area, but also updated information on the progress of the entire levee project, from Davis Diversion to Highway 308 in Lafourche Parish. “We will stop at nothing less than complete and comprehensive hurricane protection for all residents of St. Charles Parish.”