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River Parish leaders ready to press new president, Congress for levee funding

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(WVUE) -

Some people in the river parishes on the east bank of the Mississippi River get nervous when there are heavy rains. But now their elected leaders see progress in the push for federal flood protection.

Lake Pontchartrain can be good for fishing and other recreational activities, but many residents found out it can also be their worst nightmare. Hurricane Isaac’s tidal surges swamped St. John Parish.

"Many people think that we have levee protection against Lake Pontchartrain, which we do not, and the vulnerabilities exposed by Hurricane Isaac showed us how bad it could be,” said Parish President Natalie Robottom.

Now a federal levee system for the river parishes is closer to becoming a reality. As times winds down on his presidency, President Barack Obama signed into law a federal bill which includes authorization for nearly 20 miles of levees.

"This is the first step and it is a priority, and without this authorization and it being a bill, there would be no opportunity for funding,” said Robottom.

The levees would connect to neighboring St. Charles Parish. On the east bank of that parish sits the community of Montz.

"We have a number of neighborhoods coming up,” said St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran.

Those areas would benefit from the new east bank levees.

"You had the spillway in between so we didn't build that part of the levee, it wasn't funded, so with the WERDA Bill we should be able to complete a levee going into St. Charles Parish tying it into their levee which is in WERDA and protect Montz,” Cochran continued.

"It would go through St. John the Baptist Parish and tie into the Mississippi River levee which is in Garyville, Mt. Airy, there are plans for St. James Parish to do ring levees, and of course, there are quite a few pumping station along the levee which will be about 18 miles,” added Robottom.

But it will be up to President-elect Donald Trump and the Congress to actually appropriate the money to pay for the project.

"We're looking forward to working with the new president to bring this to fruition, the hardest part was getting it in WERDA,” said Cochran

Local matching dollars will be required and in St. John Parish the president of the parish said they are already preparing for that.

"We are going to be looking at an ad valorem, there's absolutely no way for us to have $50 million, but we don't want to be the holdup when the funding comes for this project, we want to make sure that St. John is ready,” said Robottom,” said Cochran.

She said she impressed upon the president the need for flood protection when he toured LaPlace to see the devastation wrought by Isaac.

"The president was true to his word in terms of expediting the process, again it took more years than we would like, but at least it's signed, it’s signed before he leaves office” stated Robottom.

Robottom and Cochran said they will travel to the nation’s capital next month to lobby for federal funds for the levee system.
 

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