METAIRIE, La. - Joy Naquin is among dozens of neighbors who say their backyards are sinking into the Bonnabel Canal.
There is sunken cement outside Naquin's Metairie home. She demonstrated that the house is so slanted, a ball placed in the hallway will slowly roll toward her backyard. There are cracks throughout the inside and outside of her home.
“It settles where there's not the support,” said Naquin.
Jefferson Parish officials confirm that the 40-year-old bulkhead meant to support the canal has been deteriorating for decades. Damage runs along the East side of the Canal, backing up to homes on Hesper Avenue, and stretching for from West Esplanade to Veterans Boulevard in Metairie.
Closer to West Esplanade, you can see fences falling toward the waterway. In some areas, the bulkhead has disappeared completely.
“It's an issue that we've been knowing we need to work on. The issue is always funding,” said Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng.
But the parish says it has finally secured state and local money to fix the bulkhead, at least in the part of the canal with the worst damage, between West Esplanade and Nero. The plans went before the parish review board Friday morning. Now, the parish is awaiting state approval to bid out the $6 million project.
“I think we've made terrific progress dealing with government and getting it actually moving,” said Al Koelliker, one of four neighbors who began meeting with parish officials regularly in May.
Parish officials hope the state approves another $8 million to $9 million of funding to repair the bulkhead in the rest of the canal.
“The new construction will be steel sheet piles further out into the canal,” said Jefferson Parish drainage director Mitch Theriot. “The top of those sheets will be just below the water line, from the top of those sheets to roughly where existing fences are now will be concrete slope paved.”
But Naquin says it's not enough to simply fix the bulkhead.
“I would truly like to see them reimbursing the homeowners and residents for the damage it's done to the property and maintain liability for the bulkhead,” she said.
Naquin says the parish has offered a settlement to repair the damage- but there's a catch. In order to take the settlement, Naquin must agree to let the parish off the hook for any future damage, even though it could be years before her section of the canal is repaired. The agreement would follow the property forever.
“If I did that and this whole yard decided to fall into the canal? I would be responsible to fix that,” said Naquin.
“We're not going to pay for the same damage twice,and if she chooses not to sell her home that's her choice,” said Lee-Sheng, who added that any damage claims would be done on a case by case basis.
A total of eight homeowners opted to sell their homes to the parish last year along the canal. The parish says that helps to make way for construction equipment. Naquin says she just wants the parish to give homeowners a fair deal, while others are just happy their fight to fix the bulkhead is moving forward.
Officials hope to kick off construction of the first phase before the summer.
One of the biggest challenges once construction begins would be finding the space to get heavy equipment to the area, since people’s backyards back up to the canal.
“If we went back and said would we ever build homes this close to a canal again we probably wouldn't do it,” said Lee-Sheng.