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Mississippi River to fall to safe height this week for construction to continue

As the Mississippi River falls it looks like countless construction projects will be able to get underway this week.

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been in the longest flood fight in recorded history in New Orleans this year, which has prevented everything from road repair to people being able to work on their homes. 

As the Mississippi River continues to fall, however, it looks like countless construction projects will finally be able to get underway this week.

For 291 days, the Mississippi River has been higher than 11 feet, requiring regular levee checks. For 169 of those days, though, the river was higher than 15 feet, so levee inspectors worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week to check on the levees. 

In the past, the high river level meant the Corps even had to stop homeowners from putting in a pool, or even a fence post, if they lived too close to the levee.

"Any digging down too close to the levees could create a seepage point. You could hit a layer of sand. You just don't know, so the integrity of the levees is put at risk while when that kind of work is being done," explained Matt Roe, an Army Corps spokesperson.

When the river is higher than 15 feet, there can be no subsurface work within 1,500 feet of a levee or flood wall. That means anything from a major construction project to home improvements like putting in a pool or landscaping.

"We've gotten calls from people wanting to plant bushes, shrubs, anything like that, looking for the guidance on that. We tell them to please wait until the river's below 11 feet," Roe said.

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That could finally change this week, however, with the river level finally falling. It's forecast to be at 11 feet by as early as Tuesday, so projects should be able to move forward. 

In Jefferson Parish, there's a path on top of the Westbank levee, drainage improvement in River Ridge and River Road resurfacing after high waters inundated the area for months. 

In Orleans Parish, a Royal Street pothole WWL-TV reported on last month has now been temporarily filled with rocks and a metal plate pushed back over it. The people who live there and have to listen to the constant thumping of the plate said they hope the city will get on it the minute the Army Corps gives a thumbs up.

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"I hope that the city takes responsibility for its streets and that it gets fixed in a timely manner. That's what I really hope because it's a problem," said Heather Brown, who lives right near the pothole.

There's even was a restaurant that could not dig a grease trap outside when the river was too high. 

Corps officials said that as soon as it drops, they will announce when the river falls below 11 feet. The National Weather Service is forecasting the river to go as low as nine feet. 

WWL-TV We have not heard back from Orleans Parish about when work will begin in the French Quarter.

Officials with the Port of New Orleans said while their cargo operations were never hurt by the high river, they've been waiting on several wharf maintenance projects that were delayed. 

Here's a list of other notable projects delayed by the high river in Jefferson and St. John the Baptist parishes. 

Jefferson Parish projects delayed:

  • A combination Pedestrian/Bike Path on top of the Westbank Mississippi River Levee.  Area in question is between Klein St. and Douglas St. (Capital Project)
  • Neighborhood drainage improvement project in the River Ridge area by Citrus Rd/Greg Ct. (Capital Project)
  • Resurface of River Road (Eastbank) between Jefferson Heights and Colonial Club Drive vicinity. (Maintenance related project)

St. John the Baptist projects delayed: 

  • Mississippi River Trail Phase 4
  • West Bank Public Safety Complex
  • Lucy Levee Trail Phase 1
  • CDBG Housing Repair Program
  • Oxidation Pond Project Mississippi River Tie In