SELA, the multi-year, multiphase plan to reduce risk for Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Tammany parishes from storm flooding, made significant progress in 2011. Despite a disagreement over whether certain utility relocation costs should be paid by the Parish “up front” or rolled into long-term financing, projects have continued to move on schedule from design to bid to construction and completion. Since its inception in 1996, the Southeastern Louisiana Flood Control Project (SELA) has initiated large-scale projects on both sides of the Mississippi River, protecting the lives, health, and property of local residents after years of inadequate rainwater drainage and recurring flooding.
Of the fifty-nine SELA projects slated for Jefferson Parish, forty-four are now complete, six are under construction and nine are currently under design. All told, SELA projects in Jefferson will improve twenty-four drainage canals, install additional capacity to four pump stations, and build two new pump stations–for a total cost of almost $1 billion.
$30 million to effectively drain Harahan and Elmwood
Among the most significant progress made in recent months is SELA’s award of the pump station contract to begin the long-awaited Pump to the River project. Harahan and Elmwood, along with much of River Ridge, are part of the basin that drains to the Soniat Canal, which takes runoff to Lake Pontchartrain. After the catastrophic flood of May 1995, many property owners and elected officials began crusading for a “pump to the river” project to drain the basin into the Mississippi River, which is much closer. The new station and its subsequent piping will accomplish this goal and will drain storm water runoff at an amazing rate of 1,200 cubic feet per second.
Marrero increases drainage
On the West Bank, the majority of work to major drainage canals and pump stations in Jefferson Parish has already been completed. Of the remaining projects, one of the largest is a $13.6 million contract recently awarded to Merrick Construction to upgrade two Marrero drainage canals to further reduce the risk of flooding during heavy rains. The work in question involves installing a new drainage culvert for the Oil Company Canal near 8th Street and widening Justice Canal between 4th Street and Barataria Boulevard. The project, which is designed to protect against a rainstorm that has a 10 percent chance of occurring in any given year, is expected to be completed by the end of 2013. Additional improvements on the West Bank include upgrading the Mayronne Canal and the Two Mile (Patriot) Canal. The Mayronne Canal runs from Dugues Canal to Westwood Drive and the improvements include a combination of 1300 feet of earthen channel and 1860 feet of concrete-lined channel. The Two Mile (Patriot) Canal will con- sist of building a concrete “U” frame section and constructing three bridges between Barataria Boulevard and Allo Street.
SELA funding covers major drainage and pump station improvements, while separate local parish agencies and departments are responsible for maintaining the networks of subsurface drains and ditches, smaller pump stations, and retention ponds. The East and West Bank Levee Districts are responsible for additional flood control projects, such as major levees and flood gates, while hurricane protection levees and flood gates are overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers. All of these work together to protect our homes and property against flooding from heavy rain events, as well as those produced by tropical storms and hurricanes.
To date, approximately 65% of SELA projects are complete in Jefferson Parish and the remaining are on schedule for completion by 2017.