Permit granted for levee expansion

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Parish President Kenny Matassa stands in front of the GSA map for the Laurel Ridge Levee expansion, which could be completed within three years.

"We finally got our permit from the Corps. of Engineers for the Laurel Ridge Levee Project," Parish President Kenny Matassa said on Thursday.

Matassa explained that for over 10 years the parish has been trying to get a permit, which would allow the expansion of the Laurel Ridge Levee from Gold Place Road (LA 934) up to Walls Cemetery Road off of LA 431 in Northeast Ascension.

Moreover, the levee extension will include a system of several "gates" that will allow for drainage to move back and forth between the system depending on the circumstance.

"We're going to have seven gates put in," Matassa said. "Instead of the water staying in here for two months, we can let the water back out. These gates will be open until you get to a certain height, then we'll close them off for protection."

Matassa credited Drainage Chairman Dempsey Lambert, Councilman Randy Clouatre, Councilman Todd Lambert, Councilman Benny Johnson and others for their effort to get the permit.

Matassa said the people living near LA 431 are the ones most in need of the levee expansion. The area currently has little to no protection from Amite River overflow. This levee expansion will provide more flood security, unless a biblical flood occurs.

"If God gives us 30 inches of rain, it's gonna still topple this new levee," Matassa said.

The Pontchartrain Levee District in conjunction with GSA engineers and Ascension Parish paid the Corps. upwards of $4 million to mitigate the process. Matassa said he was unhappy about that, since nearly $800,000 came from the parish.

"I think it's ludicrous for us to have to pay the Corps. of Engineers for a project that's going to help with flood control," Matassa said. "But not all of it goes to the Corps. Much of it goes to land banks."

U.S. President Trump visited Ascension Parish after the flood, and Matassa said he mentioned the permit for the levee extension had been lagging for over ten years.

"I could understand a year," Matassa said.

The project was said to cost $28 million. Funding comes from the major drainage budget. Most of the funding, according to Public Information Officer Martin McConnell, was bonded out years ago.

"If we can finish the bidding out by this year, we can start in 2019," McConnell said.