St. Tammany leaders urge hurricane readiness, as they fight for new levee study, and wider I-12

COVINGTON, LA (WVUE) - St Tammany leaders say they are making headway in their effort to get an improved levee system, but the parish isn't there yet. With hurricane season beginning, they are asking the state for evacuation help and warning residents to make a plan.

They came from agencies across the Northshore to prepare for what hurricane season might bring and possible evacuation bottlenecks.

"We will keep as much pressure on the governor as possible," said Parish President Pat Brister.

As emergency operators worked through storm scenarios in Covington, parish leaders continue to push for a widening of often dangerous I-12.

Interstate 12 is a major evacuation route and after frequent backups, which may have contributed to the deaths of four people this past weekend, parish leaders are now appealing for help from a storm safety perspective.

"It's much more than local issue going into the hurricane season. We know we are the evacuation area, going south," said Brister.

The parish is building a bypass road that will connect Highway 21 to Highway 1077 along Ochsner Blvd. But it is still years away.

"I think you will see those by end of this year, we will start on that," said Brister.

Hurricane season begins tomorrow, and parish leaders say preparedness begins at home. They want residents to make an evacuation plan, store emergency supplies like water and batteries, and protect their homes.

"Have supplies ready, clear storm drains, and trees, and make your homes safer from wind and tree damage," said Brister.

Tropical storm flooding has plagued St Tammany and neighborhoods in Mandeville and the Slidell area for years, often inundating neighborhoods shielded by a patchwork set of levees.

Help is on the way. Within 30 days, the LA Coastal Protection authority and the parish will begin a $2 million study to determine flood protection needs along the parishes 25-mile long coast.

"It's huge. In order to get money you have to have a plan that's been vetted," said parish CAO Gina Campo.

That study could go a long way in helping the parish and it's levee district secure funding for a long-desired unified flood protection system that could incorporate a weir structure near the Rigolets, to keep the gulf out of the lake.

"I don't think they will ask for a revenue source until they have a plan," said Brister.

As the government works to improve infrastructure they urge everyone to take matters into their own hands and make a plan to prepare as we head into hurricane season.

Last year, the state cut $9 million in funding for Slidell area levees, due to money issues. That money was not restored.

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