BELLE CHASSE -- South of West Bank neighborhoods huge pumps roared to life and torrents of water spurted away from inhabited areas. It was part of the Army Corps of Engineers test of the brand new West Closure Complex in Belle Chasse.
"This is the largest drainage pump station in the world. This is the largest sector gate in the United States,” Col. Ed Fleming.
The $1-billion complex sits on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway just south of the Harvey and Algiers canals. First, the corps closed huge gates to block the 225-feet wide channel used by vessels. When a hurricane threatens, closing the gates is designed to prevent storm surges from pushing north into neighborhoods, protecting much of the West Bank from storm surges up to 11 feet high.
"This particular projects protects much of Jefferson Parish, the upper part of Orleans Parish in the Algiers Point area, as well as Plaquemines Parish,” said Kevin Wagner, West Closure Complex manager.
Then they turned on the eleven huge pumps that are also designed to prevent neighborhood flooding by pumping away the water from torrential hurricane rainstorms.
"When we operate one pump, we can basically fill up an Olympic sized swimming pool in less than a minute. When we operate all eleven pumps, we can fill up that same swimming pool in 4.6 seconds,” said Wagner.
The West Closure Complex is 95 percent complete, with the work scheduled to be finished by December. Making sure it is ready for this hurricane season was a key concern for the Corps.
" This system, not only the West Closure Complex, but all the portions of this system are working as designed at this point, but again we're cautiously optimistic. There are a lot of projects that are still under construction," said Fleming.
But Fleming says the 133-mile system that protects five parishes is prepared is up to a 100-year storm threatens the area this summer. But remember that is a Category-3 hurricane.