West Shore levee project tied up in court; residents fear next big storm

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 5:16 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2021 at 5:42 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The long-awaited West Shore Levee Protection Project in St. John Parish could be in jeopardy if a deal is not reached soon.

The $760 million project is currently tied up in court. Flood-weary residents are worried about the next big storm.

In LaPlace, people are still rebuilding after Hurricane Ida. Any word of possible delays in the newly-promised levee system is like rubbing salt in their wounds.

People in LaPlace are already worried about Hurricane Season 2022 if a deal is not struck on a...
People in LaPlace are already worried about Hurricane Season 2022 if a deal is not struck on a new levee protection project soon.(WVUE)

“I am heartbroken and sick about it and terrified,” says Patti Levie, who has been staying in Baton Rouge and commuting while her home repairs are complete.

Over four months ago, Governor John Bel Edwards joined St. John Parish leaders to announce a plan to build an 18.5-mile levee, “built to a 100-year storm protection level.”

The peace of mind associated with the promise was shattered when Ida flooded the parish.

Negotiations over the purchase price of the land needed to build the levee have now broken off.

“I got two feet of water,” Yoly Hernandez says. “I lost everything. We lost everything. We are so worried about next year and the following years.”

Chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Chip Kline, says an appeal will be filed in Louisiana’s Fifth Circuit. The order will allow construction to resume.

Kline called the project “critical” to protect the people of the river parishes.

“Let’s just clear it up quickly,” Levie said. “Do what has to be done. There are too many things at stake.”

Parish leaders are watching closely.

“I believe it’s unfortunate to stop after half of LaPlace went underwater,” Council Robert Arcuri told FOX 8.

“Please try to work it out.,” Hernandez said. “We really need it. This little community needs it.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is waiting for a settlement to be reached in the levee land dispute. They issued a statement saying “before we can undertake construction in this area, the non-federal sponsor must provide us with an authorization for entry. Without it, we will be delayed in constructing two of the critical access roads, which could then carry forward delays in awarding levee and pump station construction contracts.”

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