More flood protection for St. Charles Parish could be on the way, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has re-designed and re-released the Upper Barataria Louisiana Feasibility Study.
The updated report proposes a 30.6-mile levee built to the current Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction specifications at a project elevation of 14 feet, relative to current ground conditions, from Luling to Raceland.
The complete system outlined in the report, which would cost nearly $2 billion, would provide a minimum of 100-year level of risk reduction, or a storm surge that has a one percent chance of occurring in any given year. Protection would span across portions of seven southern parishes, including the west banks St. Charles and St. John the Baptist.
The new 7.5 foot elevation levee would extend out from the existing St. Charles Parish Levee and continue south, improving the Sunset Levee and including a vehicle crossing at Bayou Gauche.
The levee system would then cross Bayou Des Allemands just south of US Highway 90 with a 270 ft. barge gate structure, which would be closed during tropical events. The levee system would then parallel US Highway 90 until high ground near Raceland, and hydraulic control structures would be placed in the section paralleling US Highway 90 to maintain existing water exchanges.
This isn’t the first time the idea of flood protection for this area has been studied. In 2019 the Corps studied and released a smaller study – one that planned for a 50-year levee system spanning 18.3 miles with an elevation of 7.5 feet and improvements to existing levees. That plan was abandoned after modeling run by the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority provided new data used in the development and recalibration of the report to an updated plan of a 100-year system.
“This is great news for St. Charles Parish that is decades in the making,” St. Charles Parish President Matthew Jewell said. “While this is just the beginning, I am happy to see the Corps of Engineers taking these steps to expand its initial proposal and provide 100-year flood protection for our residents and industrial infrastructure throughout the region.”
The Upper Barataria Basin study area is approximately 800 square miles and characterized by low, flat terrain with numerous navigation channels, drainage canals and natural bayous that drain into Lake Des Allemandes. The study area contains a little over 25,000 structures in which 90 percent are residential.
The current plan is in the feasibility analysis stage and, when complete there, will head to Washington-level review.
Parish Councilwoman-At-Large for Division B Holly Fonseca said she is ecstatic the study yielded a proposal from the Corps to construct a levee system that will protect multiple parishes and US 90, a critical evacuation corridor.
“Over the past several years our parish, with help from the state, has made great progress on the Westbank Hurricane Protection Levee. However, constructing a closed levee system with 100-year level of protection from storm surges remained cost prohibitive without federal participation,” she said. “The Upper Barataria Basin Feasibility Study represents our opportunity to secure federal participation. It’s the ultimate goal we’ve worked towards all these years.”
Fonseca said the study is a major milestone reached in the parish’s quest for a closed 100-year levee system to protect the west bank.
“We’ll continue to work towards the next milestones – approval of the study by the Army Corps of Engineers and securing Congressional approval and funding for the project,” she said.
Paul Hogan, a former parish council member, said the project is of the upmost importance to both residents and industries in the areas that surround Lake Des Allemands.
“We’ve been pushing and fighting for this for a long time,” he said. “It’s desperately needed.”
All official documents related to the study can be found at www.mvn.usace.army.mil.
The Army Corps of Engineers will be hosting meetings Jan. 12 at 10 a.m. and Jan. 13 at 2 p.m. via WebEX regarding the Upper Barataria Basin Louisiana Feasibility Study.
Log in information to attend online, as well as all documents related to the study can be found at https://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/…/Upper-Barataria…/
The meetings will also be streamed live on the New Orleans District Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/usacenola/
Questions or comments on the report may be sent to the study’s Project Delivery Team at UpperBaratariaFS@usace.army.mil, or by text message to 318-467-8350.
Comments may also be submitted during the meetings through the WebEx presentations or on Facebook.