St. Charles Parish is building a new, 33-mile long, west bank levee and pump system to protect communities and industrial plants from Luling to Lafourche. The goal is to protect against water washing in from the Gulf of Mexico during a heavy storm.

Friday, Congressman Garrett Graves, R-LA, and parish leaders toured the first phases of the hurricane protection structure. Graves was instrumental in securing about $8 million for the project.

"Years ago, we were out here and literally, some of the areas that we've driven on today, some of the areas where we stood today, were under water," Graves said.

St. Charles voters passed a new 4-mil property tax to help pay for new flood control structures. Initially, the levee will be built 7 feet above elevation. The parish would like to see 12 and half feet, but needs to raise more money to achieve 100 year storm protection.

Parish tax payers are impressed with the progress so far.

"We need this structure," Luling resident Carmela Cary said. "We don't want to have to evacuate if we don't have to. So, as much protection as we can get, we need it."

"We're at sea level, so we need levees and pumps," Paradis resident Dale Frickie said. "I'm glad they're doing it."

Recently, there's been a lot of discussion in New Orleans about using retention ponds to help move the water more quickly off the streets.

One such retention pond along the west bank Hurricane Protection levee will eventually grow to about 15 acres and it's designed to keep water off the streets in the Willowdale subdivision in Luling.

"We can get the water into our retention and when it gets high, pump it out," St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran said. "It's a place to hold water until you can get it out."

Congressman Graves called the new levee a "step in the right direction."

"We need to keep adding dirt to these levees," Graves said. "We're going to have to get them up on a second lift, but fantastic seeing the progress that's being made."