Corps stuck on protecting wetlands behind Willowridge
One year after Hurricane Katrina, construction of the the Westbank Hurricane Protection Levee project is still moving at a snail’s pace.The fear that many St. Charles Parish residents have of facing yet another hurricane season without protection has not spurred the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up the process.
Today, Willowridge Subdivision is protected only by the remnants of a small levee built when the subdivision was developed. Rathborne Land Company, developer of Willowridge subdivision, has requested repair permits for this 10-mile levee since 2000, but the Corp of Engineers has refused these requests, allowing the levee to fall into a state of disrepair.
Phase two of the West Bank project, which consists of the construction of the eastern portion of the levee behind Willowridge and Willowdale subdivisions, has been stuck in the permit review process for almost a year due to the concern with wetland preservation.
One of the primary issues regarding phase two is whether or not to enclose a portion of the wetlands within the existing Rathborne levee system.
This is a sensitive issue that the Corps’ engineers are giving careful consideration to because of the desire that wetlands within the levee system be sustainable and untouched.
Once an agreement is reached on levee location, phase two should commence pending any further setbacks.
However, work on the eastern end of the westbank levee appears to be moving along quite smoothly.
The parish council approved a $120,495 contract with B&K Construction Co., Inc. to remove debris from the work site of the eastern end of the project which should take 60 to 90 days to complete.
After completion, the levees on the western side will be constructed in three stages with uncompacted fill in lifts of three feet.
According to an engineer for the west bank levees, segments of the levees standing 7 feet tall should be completed by spring.
The levee is currently being constructed as a local project with a final elevation height of 7 to 8 feet.
However, should the levee become included as part of the Donaldsonville to the Gulf project, the levee height would be upgraded with federal assistance to an elevation of approximately 10 to 12 feet.
The west bank levee project runs easterly from the Sunset Drainage District Levee to the Davis Pond West Guide.