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Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

LAPLACE, La. -- The west shore of Lake Pontchartrain has only minimal protection from the rising tide.

There are no levees to protect nearby communities from the storm surge that washes ashore during tropical storms or hurricanes; it's why parts of LaPlace flooded during Hurricane Isaac last summer.

After 43 years of study, the Army Corps of Engineers has finally recommended a plan to build 18 miles of new levees from the Bonnet Carre Spillway through St. John Parish.

'When you're protected by a hurricane system, you're less vulnerable,' said St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom. 'When you're outside of that system, you're more vulnerable as was demonstrated with Isaac.'

But Robottom and others say this plan does not go far enough.

They support another option calling for 28 miles of new levees extending through St. James Parish.

'I am going to help lead our delegation to advocate for option D which is a better option for the locals,' said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA. 'It's a stronger option for St. James Parish, and it only costs $10 million more.'

'This is disappointing -- the locally-preferred alignment would have offered a lot more protection for a lot more people for the same price,' Sen. David Vitter, R-LA, said. 'Quite frankly, President Obama is breaking his promise he made to the region when he visited in September 2012.'

The Army Corps says it comes down to benefits versus ongoing costs.

'Alignment D is a larger levee, so it has more pumping stations, gated structures that have to be maintained, more levee, more grass to be cut,' said Army Corps Project Manager Jeff Varisco.

West shore levee protection is still years away if ever. Once a plan is agreed upon, Congress would have to authorize then fund the project.

With both options costing about a billion dollars, Sen. Landrieu says it will take a larger share of offshore oil and gas revenue to pay for the project.

'The bottom line is unless we get some additional money, there's no money in Washington even with this authorization to fund these projects,' said Landrieu.

Community members and stakeholders are invited to comment on the draft integrated WSLP feasibility report and Environmental Impact Statement.

Public Meeting Details

St. James Parish

When: September 10
6 to 6:30 p.m. - Open house and opportunity to provide one-on-one comments to a certified court reporter
6:30 to 7 p.m. - Brief presentation outlining the project and planning process
7 to 8:30 p.m. - Acceptance of public comments
Where: Knights of Columbus
1905 W. Main Street
Lutcher, La. 70071


St. John the Baptist Parish
When: September 17
6 to 6:30 p.m. - Open house and opportunity to provide one-on-one comments to a certified court reporter
6:30 to 7 p.m. - Brief presentation outlining the project and planning process
7 to 8:30 p.m. - Acceptance of public comments
Where: St. John Community Center
2900 Hwy. 51
LaPlace, La. 70068


In addition to comments received during the public meeting, the Corps will accept written comments between August 23, 2013 and October 7, 2013. Comments on the integrated report should be directed to:

William Klein
Regional Planning and Environment Division - South
New Orleans District, Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 60267
New Orleans, Louisiana 70160-0267

Comments may also be sent to
WSLPAdmin@usace.army.mil

Copies of the report are available for public review during regular business hours at the following locations:
St. John the Baptist Parish Library, 2920 New Highway 51, LaPlace, La. 70068
St. James Parish Library,1879 West Main Street, Lutcher, La. 70071
Earl K. Long Library - University of New Orleans, 2000 Lakeshore Dr., New Orleans, La. 70148

The report is also available online at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District website:
www.mvn.usace.army.mil at the WSLP project page: http://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/About/Projects/WestShoreLakePontchartrain.aspx

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