St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Parishes have received an okay for $760 million federal funding needed to build levees that will protect the east bank of both parishes when storms swell the waters in Lake Pontchartrain in the future. It is part of a larger $2.6 billion supplemental spending bill.
The funding was thought necessary after Hurricane Isaac flooded the area in 2012 that led to the evacuation of some 3,500 residents. The two parishes received a congressional okay for the funding last week.
Included in the project, labelled the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Risk Reduction Project, are a series of earthen levees, floodwalls and pumping stations that run somewhat parallel to Interstate 10 from the Bonnet Carre Spillway in St. Charles Parish to the Hope Canal in St. John Parish.
The completed project is expected to protect some 120,000 residents and 7,000 buildings from “100-year storms” or storms that have one percent chance of occurring in any given year.
The project is expected to take about five years to complete after the Congress appropriates the money. The state will have to foot some of the bill for the project but state officials were able to persuade federal lawmakers to pay the full cost initially and let the state repay its 35 percent share over 30 years. Otherwise, it would have taken significantly longer to finish the project
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves of Baton Rouge who helped finalize the funding bill pointed out that the new levees authorized by the bill “mean our homes will be protected, our businesses safer, and most importantly our families are going to have safe communities to live in. It’s going to help bring down our flood insurance rates and help bring economic development and jobs to our region.”