Although it’ll be 50-year storm height, St. Charles Parish may complete its long desired West Bank flood protection through a proposed $514 million Upper Barataria levee.
The 18.3-mile levee would secure portions of seven south Louisiana parishes, including St. Charles Parish, from flooding caused by hurricane and tidal surges and heavy rainfall.
The public can comment on the project on Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Edward A. Dufresne Community Center, 274 Judge Edward Dufresne Parkway in Luling.
Sam Scholle, the parish’s senior projects manager, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study is aimed at determining the feasibility of the project.
Scholle said the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), the Lafourche Basin Levee District, North Lafourche Levee District and St. Charles Parish are participating in the study. CPRA is the project’s local sponsor and could be required to cover at least 35 percent of its cost with the rest to come in federal dollars.
“This means it’s a lower level levee with a flood risk of one in 50 years rather than one in 100 years,” Scholle said.
If approved and funded, the Upper Barataria levee would run from Hahnville to Raceland, across Bayou Des Allemands. The Corps says the new levee would protect 800,000 people from Gulf storm surge in a 50-year storm.
To get funding, Scholle said the study has to show flood losses would exceed the cost of the levee.
“Right now, the Corps doesn’t look at economic business losses or business interruption losses or loss of U.S. Highway 90 for a length of time and what it does to the economy or impact to the whole southern region or U.S.,” he said. “We’re trying to convince them to do that. Currently, they look only at residential structures.”
Hurricane Katrina deluged Louisiana, but its impact was felt nationally in lost goods and services, Scholle said.
Corps spokesman Matt Roe said completion of the study is anticipated by 2021. If the project is feasible, it would need Congressional authorization and funding to begin work.
The levee would be parallel to Highway 90 that connects to Bayou Lafourche near Raceland. The 18-mile alignment includes two miles of flood walls and a 270-foot barge gate across Bayou des Allemands, which would tie in with the current St. Charles Parish levee.
“The levee design will be optimized with a minimum height of 7.5 feet, possibly higher in some areas and on hardened structures,” Roe said. “Additionally, to improve resiliency in the event of overtopping we are looking at adding armoring to the levee alignment.”
Armoring and additions like turf matting would add another $187 million to the cost.
Roe said Corps regulations have not changed on assessing feasibility, but he did say it has more recent and accurate hydraulic models for projecting coastal storm surge damages along with rainfall in the upper portion of the basin.
He added, “This new information, along with the large storage capacity within the basin, led us to have a tentatively selected plan and we are moving the study forward to the next step.”