The most pressing issue that St. Charles Parish faces is the lack of hurricane protection, especially on the west bank where most homes and business are vulnerable to storm inundation.
"The million dollar question on everyone's mind in St. Charles Parish: When are we getting a levee?" said Council Chairman Brian Fabre.
To address the issue, Fabre invited Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Frank Duarte to update the council as to the progress of levee construction on the west bank.
Duarte, who is charge of the Donaldsonville to Gulf Mexico Project, told the council that project is still in the study phase and he is looking at September 2007 as the completion date.
With near misses from two major hurricanes still fresh in the minds of parish residents, Fabre pressed Duarte for a date when construction could begin on the actual levee. Duarte said he believes that construction could begin in 2009, telling Fabre, "I know that's not the answer you want to hear," adding particular channels must be followed for the project.
Duarte said the project, once approved, would take approximately three years to complete.
The Corps is considering multiple options. One is the Highway 90 Alignment, a 52.9 mile levee. The next considered project is the Pipeline Alignment, a 34.5 mile structure that Duarte said was significantly cheaper and shorter while protecting the same population.
According to early reports, the most favorable plans are the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Alignment, a 27.2 mile structure along the shipping canal and a modified version of the GIWW, a 22.7 mile levee.
Duarte said that the advantages of the modified GIWW are that it follows the optimum line of defense for a Category 5 storm, it is the shortest alignment, it is cheaper to build and it impacts fewer landowners. As for negatives, the base of the levee will have to be wider and it will have to be taller since it is closer to the Gulf of Mexico.
While Duarte likes the GIWW route's ability to keep water out of Lakes Cataouatche and Salvador, Councilmen Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux worried that wetland/dryland interface would still need to further protect areas inside the GIWW route as water pools in the lakes. Duarte agreed with Faucheux's assessment that another levee will have to be built at the interface.
In other council news, for 10 consecutives years, St. Charles Parish received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.
The award recognizes financial prudence and accountability. A plaque commemorating the achievement was presented to President Laque and the parish council.
Also, the parish council and the parish president proclaimed May 4 as a National Day of Prayer in St. Charles Parish. The day was organized locally by West St. Charles Baptist Church and Mary Matise accepted a plaque in recognition.