Jean Lafitte leaders break ground on new tidal surge levee project

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 7:10 PM CDT
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JEAN LAFITTE, La. (WVUE) - Ground was broken Tuesday (Sept. 5) for a new $14 million tidal surge levee and floodwall project in the town of Jean Lafitte.

The community sits along the banks of Bayou Barataria in lower Jefferson Parish and has seen its share of catastrophic flooding. In 2021, Hurricane Ida sent floodwaters and mud into Lafitte.

“Yeah, four feet of water up there where I live, and about 10 feet of water down south,” resident Bob Slocum said.

Two years later, Mayor Tim Kerner Jr. and several Jefferson Parish officials gathered next to the bayou for the levee project’s groundbreaking ceremony.

“It wasn’t too long ago when this place had 11, 12 feet of water at certain spots and four feet of mud,” Kerner said.

Harry “Chip” Cahill, attorney for the Lafitte Area Independent Levee District, said, “It’s a 7-foot levee designed to protect against tidal surge. It’s not a hurricane levee, but guess what? The footprint that’s been established for these tidal levees will be the same footprint for a hurricane levee one day.”

Kerner said the $14 million project is critical.

“This would have prevented this area from flooding from all the storms in history -- other than Hurricane Ida -- which would have overtopped only by a few inches, but it would have kept the mud and the debris out,” he said.

Resident Amanda Rome said she thinks more flood protection is needed right away.

“Until they do something at Barataria Bay, we ain’t never going to be safe,” she said.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there have been other projects in Lafitte to protect against tidal flooding.

“So, we have three,” Kerner said. “Fisher Basin, that protects the school, town hall. We have Roseland, that’s under construction now, that protects the parks, the fisheries market and hundreds of homes. And now, this one.”

The latest levee project is slated to be completed in three years.

Still, Lafitte remains outside the federal hurricane flood protection system.

“They could have sent the levee down a few more miles south and it would have saved them hundreds of millions of FEMA recovery that they had to spend here on Rita, Ike, Isaac, Barry, Ida, Zeta,” Kerner said. “But instead, they tried to save a little bit of money and it’s going to cost them 10 times as much. But that’s why these levees are so important.”

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