Last week construction began on preparing the east bank levee for another round of hurricanes. With low spots due to the levee sinking, the Pontchartrain Levee District and the Army Corps of Engineers began the first round of repairs.
The event was marked with officials on the local level, such Parish President Albert Laque, to the state level, such as Sen. Joel Chaisson.
The first round of repairs requires bringing the levee back up to 10 ft. from the Jefferson Parish line to the Bonne Carre Spillway. The project is a joint initiative between the Corps and the levee board.
"The levees are ready for second lifts. When you build through a swamp like this, you have to build up the levee and then it slumps down. A few years later, then you are able to come back and strengthen it," said Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Mervin Moreheiser. "We wanted to get out here and catch the low spots before hurricane season."
Commissioner Tony Cunningham, who represents St. Charles Parish for the Pontchartrain Levee District, said that he his hopeful this project would be completed by hurricane season.
"I am so pleased with progress that being made by the Pontchartrain Levee District and the Corps to expedite closure of our east bank hurricane levee," said Sen. Joel Chaisson.
While this portion of the levee would be stable by June 1, the raising of the overall levee is also a concern of officials. The goal is to bring the levee up even higher for next hurricane season. Moreheiser said that in the next month construction will begin to raise the entire east bank levee another 3 ft, bringing the height to an approximate of 13 ft.
Moreheiser said that this additional 3 ft. lift would begin behind where crews are raising the east bank levee to 10 ft. Though it has yet to be officially approved, officials from the Corps and the Pontchartrain Levee Board were confident that funding will be granted soon.
The funding for the project comes from a mixture of federal and local levee board dollars.
"What we are hoping to do is that by the time that we are finished with this 10 ft. level is to begin immediately into that next phase. One way or the other, we are not going to quit working until that levee is at 13 ft," said Pontchartrain Levee Board President Steve Wilson, adding that this would protect the east bank up to a slow moving Category 3 storm.
Wilson also said that a study is in the works that could protect St. Charles Parish from a Category 5 storm. "Preliminary estimates tell us that it will make this levee go to 17-18 ft.," said Wilson.
Wilson said that the design for the pumps that will one day sit along the east bank already incorporate the 17-18 ft. model.
"The next pump station will be at Cross Bayou across Ormond; we expect construction to began before next hurricane season," said Wilson, adding that it could 9-10 months to construct. He added that he is approaching local industry to speed up the process.
|Photo by Michael Luke|
|Workers begin repairing the east bank hurricane protection levee.|