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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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Levee District won't let Corps bureaucracy deter projects

Levee District won't let Corps bureaucracy deter projects

Finding realistic and cost-effective solutions to problems has always been at the center of the South Lafourche Levee District’s way of doing business.

In many cases the solution involves thinking of ways to do its job without the backing of its greatest roadblock—the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Whereas in the past, the Corps has overseen SLLD projects and given its approval of work done within the levee system in south Lafourche, recently the Corps has refused to ratify certain undertakings.

The seawall project in Larose and the elevation of the discharge pipes at the Bully Camp Pump Station are two prime examples.

The Corps said that the scope of the seawall project has changed and has been slow to give permission to proceed.

The Corps also will not underwrite the raising of the pipes and the levee at Bully Camp for "safety concerns".

Thus, SLLD has had to find ways of continuing work without Corps approval.

SLLD General Manager Windell Curole has stated that SLLD is not trying to ignore the Corps, just get around its bureaucracy.

“They (Corps) are in the business of following rules, we are in the business of building levees,” he often says.

To that end, SLLD has enlisted the help of HNTB Engineers to give advice on how to save money while staying within federal guidelines when building levees.

HNTB is a national firm whose expertise is infrastructure planning, design, and construction management.

SLLD has done business with HNTB in the past, hiring the firm to do a damage assessment of our levee system after Hurricane Katrina.

David St. Marie and Brad Barth HNTB engineers, were at Tuesday’s SLLD public meeting to outline their company’s Trinity River Levee System Accreditation project.

According to HNTB’s website, Trinity is a city of Dallas undertaking which was able to “successfully navigate the Corps’ Section 408 process, begin 100-year levee remediation construction and draw even closer to completing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s extensive levee re-accreditation process”.

Barth said although the Dallas levees are 30’ high as opposed to our 15’ levees, the two infrastructures are similar.

“Post-Katrina, both levee systems were decertified by FEMA,” he said.

HNTB came into Dallas and developed a master plan, did assessment, and created a remediation process which is a model for other cities.

HNTB saved the city of Dallas $1 billion by avoiding some of the Corps burdensome safety factors.

The success of HNTB’s work has moved Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Association to ask the design firm to come up with levee design guidelines for the state as well.

Curole is hopeful that what follows is a path to recertifying our levees as well as tremendous cost savings in building and maintaining local flood protection.