Corps clearing land on Hwy. 90 for western levee

Many residents driving on Highway 90 near the Davis Pond Diversion think that the parish is already clearing land for a new boat launch. While Parish President V.J. St. Pierre and his administration are working on securing land for that project, the actual clearing is being done by the Army Corps of Engineers for the Western Tie-in.

The tie-in is a 4-mile system of levees and floodwalls that will follow the contour of the Davis Pond Diversion from the Lake Cataouatche levee south of Waggaman to the Mississippi River levee near Ama.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded two contracts relating to the construction of the Western Tie-in in October.

“Currently, no risk reduction exists at the western end of the West Bank and Vicinity project,” said Julie Vignes, a senior project manager.  “The Western Tie-in risk reduction feature has several different components, including levees, floodwalls, and floodgates; these contracts will begin construction of the levee portion of the tie-in.”

One contract requires the construction of dewatering cells to be built along the guide levee of the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion. These dewatering cells will dry out the levee footprint to make way for actual levee construction.  The contract was awarded to Phylway Construction, LLC of Thibodaux for $10.9 million.

Another contract was awarded to DQSI for $5.3 million to construct one mile of levee that will stretch north from Highway 90 to the Mississippi River near the St. Charles/Jefferson Parish line.

This project will provide further risk reduction for the areas of Avondale, Waggaman, and Bridge City from storm surges entering Lake Cataouatche and the greater Barataria Basin.  Construction of this levee is  scheduled to be completed by October 2010.

Jeff Williams, with the Army Corps of Engineers, gave a presentation at the Parish Council meeting on Dec. 21 giving a status update on the West Bank and Vicinity levee system project.

Williams said that all of the real estate needed to complete the project has already been acquired through the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority.

Five other contracts will be awarded in 2010 for the construction of an east-west levee, U.S. 90 bridge, Bayou Verret sector gate, LA-18 earthen ramp and a U.S. 90 pump station.

As far as the impacts on St. Charles Parish from the project, Williams said that road access will be altered and there will be trucks accessing the construction sites from Highway 90, elevated noise levels within the vicinity of the project and restricted access to the outer Cataouatche Canal throughout the duration of construction.

Williams said that, when completed, the project will not cause additional flooding to St. Charles.

“We’re satisfied with the numbers in our study that (the levee) won’t induce any flooding,” Williams said. “Therefore, we are proceeding forward.”

Some of the councilmen were unconvinced, including Dennis Nuss.

“There are a lot of concerned folks and it’s for good reason,” Nuss said. “Have you looked at estimating how much water this will push to the west of that levee into subdivisions in St. Charles Parish?”

While Williams repeatedly claimed that the levee will not cause any more flooding than already occurs in St. Charles Parish, Nuss was skeptical.

“I’ve got to believe…that it’s going to cause a lot more water coming into the west of that levee once it’s built,” Nuss said.

Williams said that a public meeting will be held in March 2010 before the construction of the Highway 90 bridge and detour roads begin.

Lifestyles Editor Michelle Stuckey contributed to this report.


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