Plaquemines rushes to restart halted levee project

BRAITHWAITE, LA (WVUE) - Jill Baumy fixed up the outside of her house so, she says, it would feel less depressing.

"Pulling up to come work on our home, we realize it can be back to what it was before," says Baumy. "I did the same thing for Hurricane Katrina, I got my house looking good when I pull up and I look at it and it looks like my home again."

The inside is still a work in progress nearly two years after Hurricane Isaac filled her Braithwaite Park home with water. Baumy is slow to rebuild, waiting for Plaquemines Parish to finish a 12-foot levee that will protect the neighborhood.

But work on that project recently came to a grinding halt.

"The contractor, who we've been having trouble with for many months, first, he wasn't paying some of the subs so we got him to agree to put the money into an account to pay the subs," says Parish President Billy Nungesser. "That didn't work out. The contractor who was working under him walked off the job."

Nungesser says he doesn't know why the contractor, Integrated Pro Services, wasn't paying its subcontractor. Now, the parish is scrambling to get someone else to do the job.

The stoppage came after workers degraded parts of the 4.5 mile stretch, a process to add new soil and widen the base.

The levee is currently only 2 feet tall in some spots.

Nungesser hopes to get the project back out to bid later this week and he says, on that time table, work could resume sometime around the end of April.

The project first must be advertised for 24 days, and Nungesser estimates there's about three months of work left to finish the levee.

"As soon as we have clearance from the attorneys that we're going to be able to go out to bid, we the parish will go out and do some interim work on that low section just to give us some added protection while we're going out for bid," he says.

Nungesser expects the complete section should be 12 feet high before the peak of hurricane season.

Baumy worries that could be too late, so she continues waiting to rebuild.

"I'd like to be back," she says. "But I can't keep moving forward with the levees in the condition they are right now."

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