A levee project that’s been in the works for over 50 years is finally a reality as federal, state and local officials gathered on July 26 to lay the foundation for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain hurricane protection system.
The levee system will help provide 100-year hurricane and storm surge protection to 60,000 Louisians in the parishes of St. Charles, St. James, and St. John the Baptist. The $ 760 million project will span a total of 28.5 miles and will include 27.5 miles of levees, one mile of T-wall, drainage structures, pumping stations and several non-structural protections to form an integrated protection system .
Governor John Bel Edwards accompanied the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority along with other local officials to the groundbreaking ceremony.
“The River Parishes represent some of the most vibrant and vibrant areas in the state,” said Edwards. â€œWith the completion of the West Shore Project, thousands of Louisianans and multi-million dollar residential and commercial properties will receive a well-deserved upgrade in their protection from hurricanes. Today’s event is a testament to the dedication of CPRA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Pontchartrain Levee District and everyone who worked tirelessly to make this important project a reality. “
Stretching from the Bonnet Carre Spillway to the Mississippi River Levee near Garyville, the structure provides storm surge protection and enhanced resilience on the west shores of Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas.
“Today we celebrate the efforts of people at the local, state and federal levels who work together toward a common goal,” said Matthew Jewell, president of the St. Charles Ward, at the ceremony. “This project will bring peace of mind and stability to residents and businesses in this area, and I am delighted that this much-needed flood protection is coming to the river region.”
The levee project began as a survey of the area between the Mississippi and Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas after Hurricane Betsy. Lack of funding led the proposed project to dormant until 2012, when Hurricane Isaac flooded 7,000 homes in the area and the I-10, delaying emergency response for days.
Under pressure from state and local leaders, Congress approved the project in 2016 and provided funding in the 2018 bipartisan budget law.
â€œThis is what the protection of South Louisiana looks like; this is what progress looks like, â€said Chip Kline, chairman of the CPRA, at the groundbreaking ceremony. “With this long-awaited effort, we are laying the foundation for a project that will bring immense benefits to some of the most vulnerable regions in our state.”
The West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection Project is a joint effort between CPRA and the New Orleans District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Pontchartrain Levee District, and the parishes of St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. James. Construction of the project is funded by a 65 percent federal and 35 percent local cost share, and the project is expected to be completed in 2024.
“This project dates from before I was born,” said US MP Garret Graves. â€œWe’re cutting red tape and red tape and the people in the River Parishes are finally getting the flood protection they deserve. The dirt is turning and we will protect our families, homes, businesses and communities. It will lower flood insurance rates and attract economic development and jobs to the region. The West Shore Project will ultimately make the St. John, St. Charles, and St. James wards safer to raise families. “