From the improvement of pumps to the cleaning of miles of drainage canals, Parish President V.J. St. Pierre has been pleased with what St. Charles was able to accomplish in 2008, calling the infrastructure progress “beyond my expectations.”
Most of the work that was done last year focused on flood prevention. The Public Works Department, with the help of grants, has worked to secure funding for bar screen cleaning equipment on several drainage pumps. Those improvements will ensure that the pumps can work at optimum capacity during rain events. Public works also cleaned miles of drainage canals, and St. Pierre said that the parish is looking into getting a blanket permit for canal cleaning instead of acquiring them one at a time.
“This alone can save the parish thousands of dollars,” St. Pierre said.
The parish also installed a new culvert at Maryland Drive for the Primrose Canal in Luling.
“This work has replaced a crumbling culvert with a semi-permanent solution,” St. Pierre said. “Public works was able to do the project in-house, saving thousands. In the new year, we plan to do several more of these replacements.”
St. Pierre says that the parish also came up with a temporary solution to tidal surge flooding in Montz by installing a 4-foot-levee, sheet pilings and a pump station along Highway 61.
The project received $200,000 in state financing and had a cost of $790,000.
“This will alleviate flooding until the West Shore Hurricane Protection Levee can be built,” St. Pierre said.
The West Shore Levee will run from the upper guide levee at the Bonnet Carre Spillway at Montz through St. John Parish and into St. James Parish, protecting communities from Lake Pontchartrain.
Another important infrastructure project is the ongoing repairs to the east bank wastewater treatment plant. The equipment at the plant was being corroded by H2S gas, and the improvements will make sure this design flaw doesn’t do further damage.
“We also broke ground on a new water treatment plant in New Sarpy,” St. Pierre said. “The Parish Council made the tough decision to allocate $8 million of the general fund for this critical project. This project, as well as the under-river waterline crossing that was recently opened, will provide water service for our citizens for the foreseeable future.”
The new plant has a $26 million price tag, and a second under-river crossing will open in 2009.
“These projects represent needed infrastructure upgrades that affect each and every resident on a day-to-day basis,” St. Pierre said. “Each project we tackle should be the best use of the taxpayer’s money. These are high-impact projects, and we’ve scrutinized each one to get the most savings for the taxpayer.
“The progress we’ve made in 2008 has been beyond my expectations.”
However, St. Pierre said that one of the more important accomplishments in his administration’s first year in office wasn’t tangible.
“We’ve worked hard to establish a cordial working relationship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the construction of the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee,” he said. “The Corps is the key to getting the levee built correctly, and I’m satisfied that we’ve been able to lay down some framework for the future – including hiring firms to handle land acquisition and permitting.”
The inability to get a permit for Phase II of the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee was disappointing to St. Pierre, though he says the parish is “setting the groundwork for doing so.”
In 2009, St. Pierre says the parish will continue to work on priority projects outlined in the Public Works Department’s long-range plan. Currently, the parish is in the process of going out for bids for pumps at Cross Bayou along the east bank levee.
“We’re also set to install a new lift station and bigger sewer line on Beaupre in Luling at an estimated cost of $800,000,” St. Pierre said. “We’ll also focus on beautification of the parish, including the installation of ‘Welcome to St. Charles Parish’ signs at the parish lines.”
Other upcoming projects include canal stabilization on the Dunleith and Primrose Canals, the east and west bank master drainage plans, and a new GIS system.