Major infrastructure work set for Slidell, thanks to FEMA

SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - Slidell officials say tens of millions of dollars in new construction should not interfere with upcoming parades.

The outgoing mayor is leaving office with a record number of projects underway.

Slidell was badly damaged by Katrina's floodwaters, and the city has been dealing with myriad problems ever since, one of them occurring  at one of Slidell's busiest intersections.

"The good Lord blessed us that we didn't have a car or a bus go over that roadway," said Slidell Mayor Freddy Drennan.

It happened off Gause at Kensington, and  Slidell's mayor couldn't believe what he was seeing. Broken sewer and water lines had washed away the dirt under the four-lane road.

"I literally walked underneath it," said Drennan.

Half the city flooded during Katrina, and just like New Orleans, infrastructure such as roads and sewer lines took a hit, with similar washout-caused sinkholes occurring all over town. The city was losing 24 million gallons of fresh water each day due to line breaks, and sewerage leaked from lift stations.

Now FEMA has committed $100 million to making repairs and improvements, and residents are pleased.

"Absolutely we'll just have to see how they spend it," said Carlene  Melton, a board member of the Chamale Cove Condo Association, an area hard hit during Katrina.

FEMA has already spent about $25 million on projects like the new auditorium and City Hall, along with annex buildings. New pumps and debris screens have been placed off Bayou Lane and at Schneider Canal. But much of the money will be spent to repair damaged infrastructure that often goes unseen.

"FEMA wants us to do it as quickly as possible," said Drennan.

Getting the additional money was a time-consuming feat.

"We had to go in and TV all our sewer and water lines to show FEMA what the damage was," said Drennan.

While  the money should help the main sections of the city, outlying areas like Chamale Cove remain vulnerable to tropical storm flooding. Some would like to see a flood wall built along the Twinspans to keep the Gulf out of Lake Pontchartrain, but others say smaller projects, like clearing culverts, would help.

While Drennan says the $100 million being sent down from FEMA will go along way toward helping Slidell get the drainage and sewage system it needs, he said it won't cover all of the anticipated costs.

Drennan, who leaves office in five months, says most of the $100 million will  be spent in hard-hit flood areas south of Gause Boulevard.

The construction work could impact parade formation areas for Carnival, but no parade routes will be changed.

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