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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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NLLD flood protection plans met with opposition from landowners

NLLD flood protection plans met with opposition from landowners

The North Lafourche Levee District’s (NLLD) plan to improve flood protection between Valentine and Larose near Bayou Blue met with quite a bit of resistance at two recent public information meetings in Lockport and Larose.

NLLD wants landowners to grant 380 feet (or greater) of servitude on their property to build a new borrow canal and levee, filling in the old borrow canal and bringing the levee to a plus 7.5 foot elevation.

The plan will require digging a 300-foot canal on the inside of the levee and using the excavated material to build the new levee.

The land will still belong to the owners. The NLLD has no plans to purchase the servitude but is only asking to build and maintain the levee.

Landowners further north from Edna to Lockport agreed to a similar arrangement, granting about 450 feet of servitude for their protection.

Those sections of the Lockport to Larose system are nearly complete.

At the two public meetings on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, about 20 to 25 landowners listened as NLLD Executive Director Dwayne Bourgeois outlined the history of the problematic levee and the plan for its improvement.
The land inside the present levee from Valentine to Larose has flooded many times in the past, and the unstable levee continues to fail because of its poor design.

“It’s like Jello on the edge of a table. It wants to fall off and every time you put it back it falls again,” he said referring to material continually sloughing into the borrow canal.

But landowners like Ronald Chiasson say NLLD’s new plan requires them to give up too much valuable property.

“You are asking me for 4.5 acres of my land that’s worth $5000 an acre. Sure it’s still our land, but we won’t be able to use it. And we will still be paying property taxes on it. That’s the ‘rub’,” he said.

Chiasson and others feel that the plan puts the financial burden on about 110 landowners, while the benefit will be felt by thousands of people from Lockport to Larose.

Many attendees also wanted to know what happened to past plans to improve the levee by adding material on the marsh side, or plans to build a new levee along Bayou Blue.

Parish Councilman Phillip Gouaux argued that many of the landowners would have no problem with moving the levee back, a plan which originated in the mid-1990’s and for which NLLD received some permitting.

“You already have a foundation—the 50 year old spoil bank. Build the levee on the outside toe of that bank. The centerline of the original design was about 70-75 feet behind the levee now. We could get started tomorrow and get some protection to that area,” said Gouaux.

Bourgeois argued that material being placed on Valentine is sinking at a greater rate than anticipated, that moving the levee further back will take even more material than needed in its proposed plan, and that newer scientific data suggests the only course of action is what NLLD is now proposing.

“Our engineers say the cost will be much more. Borings from failed sections show that there is nothing consolidated underneath. The best plan to build, with a minimal amount of money, is today’s plan,” said Bourgeois.

But whether the levee is constructed as planned, or moved further back, the material needed to build anything will have to come from the landowners.

“Is the marsh stable enough to support a levee?” asked Ray Cheramie.

“Yes, if you put enough dirt. But it will sink 5 feet right off the bat,” replied Bourgeois.

“You can see from the consensus that we want the levee further to the back,” said Darcy Kiffe. “All we are asking is that you keep an open mind. Ya’ll are working for us.”

Bourgeois then agreed that NLLD will look into alternatives.

“The option of moving the levee back will require more study to show how much that will cost. We will do that as per your request and let you know,” he said.

Bourgeois said that NLLD will be contacting landowners individually to discuss the proposal, assess the level of agreement from those contacts, and then decide to move forward with the project or not.

“I know you are disappointed. I wish it was different!” said Bourgeois.