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St. John The Baptist Parish News Release

St. John Parish levee plan likely to receive Corps of Engineers approval

St. John Parish levee plan likely to receive Corps of Engineers approval

By Bruce Alpert,
September 16, 2014

A five-member Civil Works Review Board deferred voting Tuesday on plans for a $718 million hurricane levee designed to protect 120,000 residents of St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and St. James parishes. But John Peabody, the panel's chair and the Army Corps of Engineers' deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations, said the board anticipates giving its approval, perhaps as soon mid-October.

He said panel members support the plans that New Orleans-based corps engineers drew up for the huge flood control project, but they want more documentation on several issues. Among the issues:

The possible benefits versus the extra costs of expanding flood control beyond protection against storms stronger than those with a 1 percent chance of occurring each year
How the corps can assure that required environmental mitigation is actually carried out.

Other board members said they want clarification on federal policy regarding paying landowners for temporary loss of property for this project. And some members had questions about the cost-benefit analysis of armoring the levee.

The Civil Works Review Board's approval is needed to initiate a 30-day state and agency review of the project, and would trigger a "chief's report" that would let Congress consider final authorization of the project and paying for it. Congressional authorization is probably at least two years away, perhaps longer, and getting funding for the project is another challenge in the face of tight federal budgets and competition from many unfunded Corps of Engineers projects around the country.

Jerome Zeringue, chair of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said many local officials traveled to Washington for the Civil Works Review Board meeting with the anticipation that the project would win the board's approval. He asked Peabody to make it clearer that approval would come -- just a little later than anticipated.

Responded Peabody: "I am committed personally to ensuring this is completed as quickly as possible. My prediction is this will be very soon, a month, perhaps less, perhaps a little more."

Some of the officials at the meeting noted that Congress first authorized the project in 1971. They said another delay of a few weeks isn't a major obstacle.

The corps' draft plan, which is called Alternative C, includes an 18-mile levee between the Bonnet Carre Spillway at Montz to the Hope Canal in Garyville. It would protect more than 120,000 people and 7,000 structures, mostly in St. John Parish, from storms with a 1 percent chance of occurring in any year, the so-called 100-year storm.

New Orleans-based corps officials have previously put the projects pricetag at $881 million. But documents presented Tuesday to the Civil Works Review Board estimated the cost at $718 million. There was no immediate explanation for the 19 percent reduction.


St. John the Baptist Parish was well represented in Washington D.C. with Parish President Natalie Robottom, Council members Marvin Perrilloux, Cheryl Millet, and Lennix Madere and other area representatives in attendance to defend and support the recommended plan. All agencies in the Civil Works Review Board Meeting were very supportive of the plan; however, minor additions need to be made to the final document before releasing for a 30-day review.  The Chief's Report is expected to be completed by December 2014. This report will then allow for Congress to consider final authorization for the project and a funding source.

"The Civil Works Review Board is obviously committed to this project and I am confident that the New Orleans Corps will make all requested revisions to the document within the next couple of weeks. This is a great day for St. John Parish, the River Parishes, and the state of Louisiana," said Parish President Natalie Robottom.

"The overall meeting was informative and a success. The Louisiana team was unified and totally on point with questions that were asked. Thanks goes to my council members, Cheryl Millet and Lennix Madere, who were in attendance to support the efforts. Also, thanks to the entire council who supported all our efforts," said Council Chairman Marvin Perrilloux.