SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - It has been inundated many times over recent years, but Friday afternoon St. Tammany Parish officials announced a multimillion-dollar project to provide flood relief for one of East Slidell's most vulnerable areas.
Thanks to a $7.9 million hazard mitigation grant, a 54-acre retention pond is about to be dug in East Slidell reducing the flood risk to thousands of homes.
"When I meet with residents, it's all about drainage and I tell them we work on it every day," said St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister.
With that in mind, parish officials have worked for more than a year to get the grant as well as federal approval to dig the pond on a site behind Ochsner Slidell.
"The timetable is to have this project out to bid by mid-summer," said parish CAO Gina Campo.
The project is expected to benefit nearly 10,000 homes in the lower French Branch basin area, and many of the neighborhoods off Military Road.
"I've been meeting for over seven years on this, and this will be a tremendous improvement for this area," said St. Tammany Councilman Gene Bellisario.
The project also calls for the widening of the W-15 Canal to handle run-off from the pond.
"Basically we're going to hold the water up here and then it will eventually go out Doubloon Bayou to the marsh," said Joe Guillory with Duplantis Design Group.
If all goes well, parish officials say the project should be completed by summer 2018.
"We now have learned to live with that water," Brister said. "We have fought it long enough, and now we have learned to live with it," said Brister.
Full funding isn't guaranteed yet - the full council is expected to vote on a 25 percent match in a matter of days.
The project also has a side benefit. Land dug up for the pond will be transported to the Fritchie Marsh area southeast of Slidell to restore depleted marsh there and provide a measure of tidal flood protection.