Since the May 1995 flood, local, state and federal governments have been working to improve flood drainage systems, bolster hurricane protection systems and prevent a repeat of that disaster. The devastation and potential for repeat opened Congress’ eyes to the benefits of investing in flood prevention. The Southeast Louisiana Flood Control (SELA) program was authorized in 1996 by the United States Congress and administered under a project cooperation agreement between Jefferson Parish and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
SELA’s purpose is to reduce damages due to rainfall flooding with improvements supporting the parish’s master drainage plans and generally provide flood protection on a level associated with a 10-year rainfall event, while also reducing damages for larger events.
The project set out to include improvements to about 26 drainage canals, additional pumping capacity for four pump stations and the construction of three new pump stations.
The SELA project has been incrementally funded by Congress. In the years prior to Hurricane Katrina, Congressional appropriations were inadequate to permit awarding of new contracts and, in some cases, were not sufficient to continue ongoing work.
Since Hurricane Katrina, Congress has appropriated funding for projects primarily on a 65/35 percent cost share arrangement to complete the authorized and approved SELA project. In addition to providing the 65 percent funding for the approved SELA projects, Congress also appropriated the 35 percent non-federal sponsor’s cash contribution, subject to a 30-year payback.
Since 1997, almost a billion dollars have been invested on 47 major canal system improvements and pump station upgrades on both the east and west banks of Jefferson Parish.
The massive SELA project is on track for completion by 2017. SELA projects in Jefferson Parish are now 80 percent complete, with 56 of the total 57 projects awarded, 44 of which are complete, 12 are under construction and one remains under design.