Thousands of people in the River Parishes anticipate their first hurricane protection levee

West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Levee will provide 100-year storm protection to 60,000 residents
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 11:15 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Rob Potter remembers looking out his window as the storm surge from Hurricane Isaac barreled toward the Forest River Subdivision in LaPlace.

“It came right down that road right here,” Potter said. “It looked like a tsunami.”

That was 2012, the first time Potter’s home flooded.

He and his neighbors, and thousands of other people in St. John the Baptist Parish, relived the experience nine years later when Hurricane Ida dealt them an even tougher blow. Many of Potter’s neighbors have given up, electing to move.

“Half of them left and the other half are selling their house,” Potter said.

Sheriff Mike Tregre, his deputies, and other first responders conducted high water rescues throughout that horrible night in 2021 and into the next morning.

“You know what the most helpless thing was? Standing in front of this building and there’s nothing you can do,” Tregre said. “People were calling 911 and saying, ‘come help us.’”

“When you flood twice, it makes you appreciate what you have now.”


The risk of that kind of devastation could be dramatically lowered in the future once the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes construction on the first hurricane protection levee for the river parishes.

“We’ve been talking about this levee since before I was born, I believe it was 1965 when this was first talked about, having flood protection,” said Parish President Jaclyn Hotard.

Contractors are crafting the $760 million levee through the swamp that surrounds these vulnerable communities.

The 18-mile-long system of levees, floodgates, and pump stations, stretching from Garyville to the Bonnet Carre Spillway, will protect 60,000 residents in St. John, St. Charles and St. James Parishes.

“Every foot of levee that we construct helps buy down that risk in the future,” said Colonel Cullen Jones, Commander and District Engineer for the New Orleans District of the Army Corps.

“It’s huge,” Jones said. “When you look at this, this is a location that in the past has not had any storm risk reduction in the area.”

The system is designed to stand up to a 100-year storm, or a hurricane with a one percent chance of happening in any given year.

“That’s a game changer,” Hotard said. “That’s the difference of knowing that if a storm comes, I may have wind damage, there may be roof damage, but I’m not going to have two feet of water in my home.”

While the levee is scheduled for completion in 2026, Hotard points out it will provide some layer of protection even as it is under construction.

“I think people will start moving here,” Tregre said. “I think business will come here. I think people are going to feel safer.”

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