Retired surge specialist says officials right to be worried
While the Western Tie-In levee project is scheduled to be complete early next year, a retired surge specialist agrees with parish officials that it may put the parish at risk for flooding.
Will Shaffer, who used to work for the National Weather Service, said that the Western Tie-In could potentially cause flooding in St. Charles given a high storm surge hurricane.
“For some storms, where the surge would have over-topped the Jefferson Parish levees before (the tie-in project began) but currently will not…the water’s got to go somewhere,” Shaffer said. “In some storms, that could translate into higher waters in St. Charles Parish – that’s not going to happen for every storm, just very specific storms.”
The Western Tie-In consists of 4.5 miles of levees and floodwalls along the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion Canal and Outer Cataouatche Canal, as well as a navigable closure structure across Bayou Verret, an elevated crossing at Highway 90, two railroad gates and a second highway crossing that ties into the Mississippi River Levee.
The total construction value of the project is an estimated $140 million.
Officials and residents have been worried that the 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 will cause additional flooding in St. Charles.
The parish doesn’t have any protection on the western side of the diversion and it would seem that the storm surge stacking up against the tie-in would have to go somewhere, officials have said. While the parish recently secured a permit to construct a levee in Luling, the large price tag means completion is several years away.
Meanwhile, the tie-in is scheduled to be complete in 2012.
Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers told a parish Hurricane Protection Projects Committee that the Western Tie-In would have little impact on the area, but officials don’t agree.
In fact, Councilman Terry Authement said the tie-in could make the parish a spillway.
“The reason you open the spillway for the river is to relieve pressure so that you don’t flood something down river,” he said earlier this year. “In this application, by not having the project continue through St. Charles, we are a spillway.
“The water is going to go somewhere.”
Shaffer said that there is a possibility of flooding in the parish regardless of the completion of the new levee system.
“The levee system for St. Charles Parish is not nearly as robust as the one to the north on the East Bank area, so there are many storms that still could flood St. Charles Parish,” Shaffer said. “What I’m basically saying is, there are a lot of times that St. Charles Parish could be flooded, regardless of whether that levee was there or not.
“There may be a few storms where the (Western Tie-In) levee will cause slightly higher values and it could overtop a little bit more into St. Charles Parish.”
Shaffer said that the proposed future levee on the West Bank of the parish should clear up most of the flooding concerns.
Editor Jonathan Menard contributed to this report.