Pontchartrain Levee District ‘Clears Path’ for Construction
NEW ORLEANS, LA – Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, representatives of the Pontchartrain Levee District (PLD), and federal, state, and local officials gathered Monday to celebrate a significant milestone in the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction Project, an 18-mile levee from the western guide levee of the Bonnet Carré Spillway to the Mississippi River.
The groundbreaking ceremony marked the beginning of construction on a number of access roads that will allow materials, equipment, and personnel to reach the virgin swampland where the levee will be built. Civix has been working with the PLD to obtain the right of way for the entire levee alignment and to issue right of entry for construction of the access roads and a stockpile area.
“This groundbreaking marks major progress in the long-anticipated flood protection project,” said Mona Nosari, Civix Vice President of Right of Way Management. “We are proud to support the PLD as they move this project along at an accelerated speed, which means area residents will sooner be better protected from flooding.”
Nosari credits the PLD’s foresight, sustained advocacy, and investment over the years for the project’s fast pace.
“We’re proud to see dirt turning on a project we’ve been championing for decades,” said Monica Salins Gorman, Executive Director of the PLD. “The federal funding for this levee came with an aggressive timeline, and we are even more determined to move quickly to protect our communities from flooding.”
Joining PLD as one of the project’s non-Federal sponsors is the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CRPA). Speaking on behalf of the State, Governor Edwards said, “With the completion of the West Shore project, thousands of Louisianans and millions of dollars of residential and commercial property will receive a much-deserved increase in their level of hurricane protection. Today’s event is a testament to the dedication of CPRA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Pontchartrain Levee District, and all those who worked tirelessly to make this important project a reality.”
Col. Stephen Murphy, the commander of the New Orleans District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), also participated in the groundbreaking ceremony.
“The importance of this project is underscored by Congress’ decision to provide upfront funding through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 and it shines a light on the importance of Louisiana to the nation,” said Col. Murphy. “You do not engage in flood risk management in South Louisiana if you are afraid of challenges and unforeseen obstacles. I know that we have the right ‘team of teams’ in place and when construction is complete, we will have accomplished an effort that will be a model for future flood risk management efforts in South Louisiana. That being a hybrid system that uses every tool in the box, combining nonstructural and structural features to deliver risk reduction across a large project area.”
The levee will extend from the western guide levee of the Bonnet Carré Spillway to the Mississippi River, creating a barrier between the open waters of Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas and low-lying communities vulnerable to storm surge, including Montz, Laplace, Reserve, and Garyville.
With nearly all the right of way acquired, Civix has largely moved on to coordinating right of entry for construction, obtaining appraisals, and issuing just compensation to landowners. Later, Civix will assist the PLD and CPRA with obtaining credit for project costs and payments to landowners as part of their cost share for the project.
“It is rare for the right of way acquisition process to be ahead of the design and construction process. It is amazing to see how far PLD has moved the project thus far,” said Jane Dufour, the Civix Director of Right of Way Management.
“This is a complex project being built in virgin swamp, so it’s exciting to see construction beginning already,” she continued.