A decades-long wait is over after the St. Charles Parish Council officially asked the state for permission to go out for bids on the first phase of the Willowridge levee.
The first phase will consist of clearing and grubbing the right of way and construction of a 5.5-foot-levee berm from Peterson Canal to an existing berm behind Willowridge Drive. There will be temporary gaps at Willowridge Drive and Cypress Drive to keep the current drainage flow in tact until the entire levee can be completed.
The parish has already purchased wetland mitigation for the levee path, but had to wait until a lawsuit was complete before moving ahead. Last month, a judge ruled in the parish’s favor concerning a conservation easement that was put in place to preserve area wetlands. The parish will now be able to build on a 9-acre strip of land that runs through that conservation easement.
The entire Willowridge phase, which received permit approval in 2011, will be built in five phases and is designed to enclose 27 acres of wetlands near the Davis Pond Diversion canal and another 23 acres of retention area south of the intersection of Willowdale Boulevard and Beaupre Drive. All five phases of the Willowrdige levee are estimated to cost $29 million.
The parish has an intergovernmental agreement with the state Department of Transportation and Development for funding in the amount of $6.8 million for all phases of the Willowridge levee. Parish spokeswoman Renee Simpson said the DOTD has already reviewed and approved the plans and specifications for the project.
However, the parish is unable to announce a pre-construction estimate for the first phase of the Willowridge levee prior to the date public bids for the project are opened.
According to grants officer Holly Fonseca, the parish will not receive grant funding from the state before the project begins, but will be reimbursed as the project is constructed.
After the first phase is completed, the parish will begin construction of a second phase that includes buidling a pump station and detention pond. The parish has another agreement in place with DOTD to fund the Willowridge pump station for about $5.7 million. As with the other DOTD funding, the parish will have to pay to build the pump station but will be reimbursed as construction moves along.
The third phase of the project calls for the construction of a 5.5-foot-levee from Willowridge Drive to Davis Pond. The fourth phase will raise the entire levee to 7 feet and the final phase will fortify the interior of the levee.