Jefferson Parish begins laying freshwater pipeline on West Bank

Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 7:14 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Jefferson Parish has begun laying out thousands of feet of pipe in preparation for connecting the Mississippi River in Kenner to water intake facilities threatened by the saltwater wedge creeping from downriver. Meantime, Orleans Parish officials say they are putting a similar pipeline project out to bid, hoping they can start laying pipe by next week.

The Jefferson pipeline is designed to help thousands of West Jefferson residents have usable drinking water over the next several months.

“We hired an emergency contractor,” Jefferson Parish president Cynthia Lee Sheng said Tuesday (Oct. 3). “I met with them over the weekend. And, by Monday, they already had equipment into the parish.”

Thousands of feet of pipeline --both rigid for the areas near the Marrero intake facility and flexible for along the river levee -- are being put in place with urgency to feed what’s expected to be a consistent freshwater supply from the Mississippi River at Kenner into the Marrero water intake, which serves the West Bank of Jefferson Parish.

“We’re starting at the West Bank because (saltwater) will affect the West Bank first,” Sheng said. “But the East Bank is right behind.”

Time is of the essence. While the saltwater wedge appears to have stalled south of Belle Chasse, it is expected to advance and reach the Marrero intake by Oct. 24.

“Our solution is not permanent,” Sheng said. “We’re trying to beat the clock. We are renting equipment.”

While Jefferson Parish has begun installing its pipe, Orleans Parish remains in the bureaucratic prelude to enacting a similar plan.

“We’ve got two different bid packages put out this weekend approved by GOHSEP (the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness), and we have received pricing on that as of Monday,” said Steve Nelson with the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans.

Orleans Parish will experience the salt water first at Algiers, and intends to bring in fresh water via barge to dilute salinity at that intake facility. The Orleans East Bank pipeline project has been put out to bid in hopes of hiring hiring a contractor next week.

“We got an estimate for East Bank between $150 million and $250 million,” Nelson said.

The saltwater wedge is expected to reach the Algiers intake Oct. 22 and the East Bank intakes for Orleans and Jefferson a week later. The Sewerage and Water Board says it is confident that it will be able to supply the city’s needs by building a pipeline to fresher water upriver in five-mile increments.

While Orleans Parish put its pipes out to bid, Jefferson Parish ordered directly from a company called Coastal Pump & Equipment LLC, which was preapproved by GOHSEP. Sheng said Jefferson Parish is renting its flexible pipe and pumps from Coastal for less than $15 million a month.

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