Approval Brings Hurricane Protection Levee One Step Closer for St. John
Friday, April 29, 2016
St. John the Baptist Parish - Parish President Natalie Robottom, Councilman Buddy Boe and Councilman Larry Sorapuru traveled to Washington DC this week for the sole purpose of gaining the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s (EPW) approval of the Westshore Lake Pontchartrain Levee Project that will protect the eastbank of St. John Parish in addition to parts of St. Charles and St. James Parishes. Early Thursday morning, the Committee voted 19-1 in favor of the project during the hearing attended by President Robottom and Councilman Sorapuru.
Armed with a variety of documents including letters of support, a Council resolution and photos detailing the history of flooding, Robottom and Boe met with Senator Vitter and Congressmen Graves and Richmond individually to provide supplementary information to assist in gaining the support of the EPW committee members. Additionally, staff from Senators Vitter and Cassidy’s office joined Robottom and Boe at a meeting with a representative of the Army Corps of Engineers at their national headquarters to discuss the immediate next steps in moving the levee project forward. Key takeaways included: working with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the Pontchartrain Levee District, and the local Corps office in New Orleans to finalize a Memorandum of Understanding that will allow the locals to move forward with design, mitigation, permitting, and start the process of acquiring the necessary rights-of-way.
The next step in the authorization process is to gain approval by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which Congressman Graves sits on, and then a final vote on the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. The House Committee vote is expected in the next three weeks and St. John Officials plan to make the case again for advancement of the project.
Robottom said, “I cannot thank our federal delegation enough for continuing to work with us and make sure this critical project was included in the most recent WRDA bill. I’m looking forward to working with all stakeholders, especially CPRA who will serve as the non-federal sponsor, to get dirt on the ground as quickly as possible. We worked hard to get this project to this point and now is not the time to sit back and relax. We must push forward.”
“It is now time for the Council and Administration to aggressively move forward and do the prep work necessary so we can move to construction as soon as funding is provided by Congress. On May 10th, I will submit to the Council a resolution to create a Flood Protection Committee whose sole focus will be getting this levee paid for and built. As CAO in St. Charles, I worked with the Levee District, CPRA, and the Corps on four phases of the Westbank levee in only three years. We’ll have to take the same aggressive attitude if we are going to see this levee built in the foreseeable future,” said Councilman Boe.
In 2015 under Robottom's leadership, the Westshore Flood Protection Project received a Chief’s report after nearly four decades of studying the need for the project. Recent tidal flooding and the major flooding associated with Hurricane Isaac clearly demonstrated the need for complete flood protection.