In A Flash

Construction begins on West Shore Lake Pontchartrain hurricane protection

By: - July 26, 2021 1:40 pm

Construction of the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain hurricane protection system began Monday, July 26, 2021. (Image courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.)

State and federal officials joined with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to break ground on construction of the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain project, which is designed to provide 100-year hurricane and storm surge protection to 60,000 residents in St. Charles, St. James, and St. John the Baptist parishes.

The $760 million project will include 17.5 miles of levees, a mile of concrete flood wall, pumping stations, drainage structures and other non-structural protection measures to form an integrated hurricane protection system, according to a news release from the office of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Overall, the system will span 18.5 miles from the Bonnet Carre Spillway to the Mississippi River Levee near Garyville and is designed to provide storm surge protection to the western shores of Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, giving residents in the River Parishes a “much-deserved increase in their level of hurricane protection,” Gov. Edwards said.

The project is a joint effort by CPRA and the New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Pontchartrain Levee District, and St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. James parishes. Construction is being funded through a 65% percent federal and 35% local cost-share.

The idea for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain project began as a study of the area between the Mississippi River and Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas in the aftermath of Hurricane Betsy. A lack of funding shelved the proposal until 2012 when Hurricane Isaac flooded 7,000 homes in the area and a portion of interstate 10, delaying emergency response for days. According to the governor’s news release, pressure from state and local leaders finally prompted Congress to authorize the project in 2016 and allocate the funds in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

“This is what protecting South Louisiana looks like; this is what progress looks like,” said CPRA Chairman Chip Kline, who also chairs the Climate Initiatives Task Force. “With this long-awaited effort, we are breaking ground on a project that will provide immense benefits to some of our state’s most susceptible regions. We’ve recognized the necessity of this project for some time, and we’re eager to provide our River Parishes with the protection they deserve.”

The project is expected to be completed in 2024.

“This project dates back to before I was born. We’re cutting through the bureaucracy and red tape, and the people in the River Parishes are finally going to get the flood protection they deserve,” U.S. Rep. Garret Graves said. “Dirt is turning and we will be protecting our families, homes, businesses, and communities. It will lower flood insurance rates, and lure economic development and jobs to the region. The West Shore Project will ultimately make St. John, St. Charles, and St. James parishes safer places to raise a family. This is exactly how we invest in our infrastructure before a storm rather than after the fact — spending much more on disaster recovery.”

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and recognitions, including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.