METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - The path along Lake Pontchartrain in Jefferson Parish on many days is a recreation hotspot.
"We come out here almost every weekend, Saturdays and Sundays and during the week as well," triathlete coach Barry Edwards said.
Walkers take advantage of the path along with runners and cyclists.
"We have a lot of cyclists and triathletes in the community, and we love being on the path, and it's safer being on the path than on the street," Edwards explained.
It's ideal for training because it's a continuous ride from Kenner, through Metairie and into Bucktown, but a project to lift the lake levee has interrupted that ride. The path used to go up and over the levee on both sides of the Causeway, allowing people to go under the bridge and get to the other side, but those crossover ramps have remained closed during construction.
"So they are cycling in the streets, which can be a danger," Edwards said.
"I can tell you for liability purposes because it is still an active construction site for us. Even though they may not see work going on, we still have to maintain for liability purposes, protection," Flood Protection Authority-East CAO Derek Boese said.
Crews have been lifting the levee one to two feet since early this year.
"We have to maintain it at 17 feet in order to maintain certification of the system and that meets the federal FEMA flood requirements for insurance purposes," Boese explained.
He says the project played a role in many flood insurance rates dropping after FEMA's recent re-assessment. Up until June, contractors were ahead of schedule and on track to finish that part of the project in July, but extensive summer rains delayed them.
"We still have contractors working on three different locations finishing up the elevation, adding up the final dirt and then getting the grass down," Boese said.
That's all expected to wrap up at the end of September, but then the Corps of Engineers will move in to armor the levee, essentially making sure it's resilient in storm surge.
"What they (Corps) do is come behind with a geo-textile fabric, lay that on top, and then all the way down on to the backside, and then put down some special sod on top of it, and that makes the levee less prone to erosion," Boese said.
The Corps is also responsible for re-paving the ramps over the levee, and a spokesperson tells us once the Corps' contractor gets access to the area in a few weeks, they'll have a construction schedule, and it's possible the contractor may be able to re-pave the path while other work is underway.
For Barry Edwards and the triathletes he trains, that can't happen soon enough.
The Flood Protection Authority-East says the public can get levee lift status updates through its website.
Also, on the heels of an active couple of weeks in the tropics, the Flood Protection Authority-East stresses its contractors are required to have a plan on how they're going to secure a job site and its heavy equipment in the event of a storm.
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