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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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Corps orders levee district to cease and desist work

Corps orders levee district to cease and desist work

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has ordered the South Lafourche Levee District to “cease and desist” work on the Larose Floodwall Project.

The project, to improve elevation along the south bank of the Intracoastal Waterway in the Delta Farms area, was about halfway complete when the Corps notified SLLD General Manager Windell Curole in December that SLLD must stop work on the wall because one or more permits have not been granted by the Corps.

Curole explained at a January levee district public meeting that SLLD did apply for the permit, known as a “Section 404” permit, and, as in the past, the Corps was slow to respond, so SLLD went ahead with improvements.

Specifically, a mere 0.1 acre of wetlands was said by the Corps to be impacted by the improvements to the wall, necessitating the “404” approval.

This acreage is little more than a narrow strip of mud along the outside of the present concrete floodwall which was constructed by the Corps in 1986.

With the Larose Floodwall Project, SLLD is attempting to improve the Corps’ 1986 work by installing sheet piles outside the present wall to a depth of over 40 feet and a height of 13 feet above sea level.

SLLD has identified this section of the levee as the lowest in the protection system and one that continues to make the system vulnerable to flooding from rising waters in the Intracoastal Waterway.

“We were proceeding without the “404” permit (required for wetlands impacts). We purchased the proper mitigation credits. We were a little more than halfway through with the project,” said Curole.

Now the Corps is saying that because it is “altering a federal project”, (the 1986 wall), SLLD must have additional permitting (Section 408 permit) which could take years to acquire.

“We have applied for this type permit (408) in the past and waited for up to three years and it was never granted,” said Curole.

He also noted that a “cease and desist” order requires SLLD to respond as to why it proceeded without permission.

SLLD’s answer, said Curole, was two-fold: that the Corps refused to issue the “404” permit in a timely manner, and that the danger of flooding during the 2016 season necessitated going forward with the work.

Now, SLLD says it has incurred additional costs because the contractor has demobilized equipment dedicated to the job.

Under contractual agreement, SLLD must pay the contractor about $26,000, the cost of shutting down its operation. If the project starts up again, SLLD would have to pay an additional remobilizing fee of around $90,000 or more.

Curole said SLLD has always followed the intent of the law and even tried to mimic the Corps’ way of doing things, but now SLLD has become “hesitant” in other projects.

Still, Curole is hopeful that the Corps will eventually grant the permits.

“If the Corps processes this, we can get it (Larose Floodwall) done before August 15, 2016, and people will be protected,” he said.

Otherwise, the entire levee system could be impacted because of this one small area.