Work has begun on the second phase of the Willowridge levee and $7.4 million allocated for the third phase of the project.
The St. Charles Parish Council approved a $7.4 million bid to Sealevel Construction Inc. of Thibodaux to build the third phase of the Willowridge levee extension project, which is part of the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee. Construction includes an eastern tie-in levee to an elevation of more than five feet from the end of Willowridge Drive to the existing Davis Pond Diversion West Guide Levee.
Work is scheduled to begin on Oct. 20.
“I can not stress enough how important this project is – now and in the future,” said Jarvis Lewis, councilman-at-large Division B.
The project resulted from partnering with the state that helped fund the millions of dollars needed to secure the parish work, Lewis said.
“The approval of it is vital, not only to the success of the project as a whole, but also to the community,” he said of Willowridge levee work. “This is one step of many as we seek to move forward to provide adequate protection to the citizens of the West Bank.”
Lewis said Parish President V.J. St. Pierre has adamantly pushed for this project for the last eight years.
“It’s still ongoing,” Lewis added. “It’s a part of the overall completion to protect and encapsulate the entire West Bank of the parish to fend off storm surge. We don’t want them to worry about their houses flooding. We’re being proactive in what we’re attempting to do.”
The first phase of the Willowridge reach project has been completed, which included clearing and grubbing the entire right of way, building access and maintenance roads, constructing gated culvert structures, and building a levee berm from Peterson Canal to the existing berm behind Willowridge Drive.
Construction has begun on the second phase on a new pump station that can handle 300 cubic feet per second and a detention pond.
The other reaches that are to be constructed (Ellington, Magnolia Ridge, Sunset, Bayou Des Allemands Flood Gate, U.S. Highway 90 Levee) will have similar phased construction over the next 10 or more years.
To help pay for the levees, voters passed a 4-mill property tax (Proposition 2 on the ballot) that parish officials said would generate $4.8 million a year for 30 years from 2015.
Chief Administrative Officer Buddy Boe said the tax revenue could be leveraged into as much as $157 million for levee construction by issuing bonds.
The tax is made up of 3.6 mills in new taxes and a .4-mill reduction in a road lighting millage. Boe told voters the tax was necessary and the only option to constructing the levee rather than relying on “hopes and prayers” to find funding for the $300 million West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee.