Flood Plain Changes along the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline.

                   The difference in flood plains over the past 48 years has been drastic. Corps of Engineers projects has changed the flood plains. The Lake Pontchartrain shoreline along the Orleans and Jefferson Parishes are now protected by levees.  The question most recently asked, does the levees re-direct surge water to other areas? The Corps of Engineers answer is no, however recent events have residents believing the Corps of Engineers is not telling the whole story. There is a need for more independent studies to either confirm or refute the Corps findings. By changing the flood plain all surge flood waters must now empty through the Rigolets and Chef Pass. Lake Pontchartrain basin drains over 1000 square miles of area through just two small openings at the Rigolets and Chef Pass. Lower St. Tammany Parish has no flood protection which leaves this area vulnerable to surge over run.  The photographs below show the difference in the flood plains over the 48 years.
                                   

                                                  Below is satellite photos show the difference.
                                                    
                                                                                           Flood Plain prior to 1965






                                                                                   The current flood plain                                      

                          







     This model shows the surge interacting with the CSX elevated railroad tracks along the Lake Borgne shoreline and US HWY. 90. 
     Also notice the surge build up along the levee system that protects St. Bernard.





This is an illustration of the surge outflow when the hurricane proceeds inland and the wind shifts from west to east direction. This is called the slosh effect. The surge is pushed from the western shoreline of Lake Ponchartrain to the eastern shoreline onto middle and lower St. Tammany Parish shoreline. The surge must flow out through the openings at the Chef and Rigolets. The outflow surge is obstructed by Hwy. 90 and the CSX railroad as it flows out to Lake Borgne. This is where the over run takes place. The amount of over run is related to the strength of the westerly wind, surge height, and the out flow rate into Lake Borgne. The surge rides along the levee system which protects Jefferson and Orleans parishes. It does not turn out until it reaches the end in New Orleans east.





                                                             


                                 
FLOOD PROTECTION FOR ST. TAMMANY.COM

                                                                                                                                                                                                 
                                            
                                      Please have your fellow residents read this article.
                                        I invite you to write your comments in the guestbook section of this web site.
                                      All comments will be posted unless you request them not to be posted.

          The mission of this web site is to inform, motivate, and unite residents in St. Tammany Parish as to the issues regarding hurricane flood protection.            

         My reason for posting this web site is to inform my fellow St. Tammany residents of a new flood risk that we are facing. We live here with the knowledge that flooding from a hurricane is a real possibility. We minimize that risk by building to proper height standards recommended by our government officials. Our risk of flooding has increased in past years due to land development in the flood plain, loss of coastline, changes in the original flood protection program, along with the new ones that are being proposed.

     
 On September 12th of 2008 Col. A. Lee, the Commander of the Corps of Engineers, announced on WWL radio that a project has been awarded to build flood structures on the ICW where it meets with the MRGO.  Another structure will be built where the industrial Canal meets Seabrook. 
   Once these structures are built, ALL storm waters will be forced to enter and leave through the Rigolets and Chef Pass waterways. The volume of  water previously entering and exiting through the ICW will now be forced north and east along the levee, then into the lake through Chef pass. You do not need to have a degree in hydrology to understand that the increased volume will cause more flooding to the east and stay there for a longer period of time. This fact is disputed by the Corps. Their claim is that the new structures will only add one inch of water in this region. I have asked the Corps to address this issue by producing a study showing the difference between old levee systems and the new structure.  I have also requested that a study be done showing the difference of storm surge when there is no levee system to our west. The model scenario proposed to the Corps would be a slow moving cat. 2 or cat. 3 entering on the critical path. I believe this would prove my point. To this date they have not produced this information.


                                                                                                       Date: June 12, 2013  
 

   For the past few weeks the propaganda machine of FEMA and the Corps of Engineers has been in full swing. FEMA has done everything to spin the reasons they are changing the FIRM maps and raising the insurance rates. The Corps has touted the flood control projects to protect the New Orleans, St. Bernard and Jefferson Parishes. When they are asked about the North Shore they stated that some projects are being considered, however they are far away from being implemented. This deeply concern everyone who lives on the North Shore because it seems that these agencies have little concern for this region.  

   The Federal government has increased the FIRM map BFE heights. Their reason for the increase is not the complete story. They neglect to say how much negative impact the federal levee, flood and waterway projects have had on the coastline and environment. These issues need to be addressed. If the Corps projects are linked to the increase of flood risk then expecting the Federal Government to supplement the insurance rates and create mitigation projects to correct the problem is not out of line. 

When we built our homes years ago we built to standards set forth by government regulations. It is not acceptable to change the regulations without a means to correct the problems the Federal projects are mostly responsible for. There is enough proof to force a debate and create public awareness to pressure federal politicians to change the Biggert- Waters act. Our flood insurance rates should be “grandfathered” until the damage the projects caused is corrected.

   The proof that backs these claims can be found in reports as far back as EPA studies in 1987 all the way through current date studies performed by USGS and the Master Plan research. These reports state that levee projects, flood control projects, and waterways built by Corps of Engineers and other agencies are the main reason for wetland losses. Great changes in salinity counts, water flow in new waterways and blockage by levees of natural land reclamation are well documented in these reports.

   It seems that the goal of the Federal Government now is to have all coastal residents move from these areas so no additional protection is needed. By raising the insurance and delaying construction of flood projects it will be just a matter of time before a storm hits this area causing catastrophic damage. Most will not rebuild because of cost and risks of future flooding. The rest will be forced out by regulations.

   No additional funding will be needed for mitigation projects so the Corps does not have to go to Congress and ask for funding. This will also stop people from investigating the damages the federal projects has caused to our region.

    The difference in our area compared to other areas in the U.S. is that Federal waterway and flood protection projects along with government permits to dig service canals through the marsh is the main culprit in our flooding problems. These environmental changes can be linked directly to the years these projects were implemented. What took 5000 years to build has been destroyed in 75 years of construction projects. 

JF




                                                                                                                      New breakthrough  
                                                                                                                           Date: May 24 2012  

    For the past several months myself and other residents along with several of our local, state and federal politicians have been working to have the barrier plan added to the CPRA's Master Plan for flood protection. I am happy to say that money has been allocated to conduct the study to create a functional design for the barrier plan. This is the first step in what we hope will be true regional flood protection for all Lake Pontchartrain communities. This plan can be designed to satisfy the concerns of all environmentalist and neighboring states. Meanwhile there is several small projects that can add flood protection to local communities while the barrier plan is worked out. We have approached parish leaders to discuss possible flood protection for the Eden Isles / Oak Harbor community. There are no current plans for this community, however it has been open for discussion and we will continue to talk to Parish officials and attempt to devise a plan. Contact your Parish officials and let them know that you want this flood protection !

                                                                                                            
                                                                                                               
New concerns
                                                                                                          Date: February 25, 2011

     There is a new concern for the residents of Eden Isles and the surrounding areas. This concern  pertains to flood protection being developed by the Parish to protect only some properties in the southern region of St. Tammany parish. I will be the first to applaud the parish leaders for taking steps to try to protect residents in our region from hurricane storm surges. However, in this case, I have concerns about the adverse affect it may have on Eden Isles and the surrounding communities outside the new levee system. This project is a levee system being built along the Schneider canal and extending northeast to the railroad tracks. The main concern is the affects of the wind driven storm surge which will be held in place by the levee system. Models show that there is adverse effects to the water heights which build against levee systems that are designed perpendicular to the surge. This adverse effect comes in the form of higher water levels in the area of the levee system. There has been a formal request to the parish to produce the studies and data showing if any area is affected by the levee system. This levee system not only consists of the new section from Hwy 11 to the tracks but it connects to the already existing levee surrounding Oak Harbor Gulf course and Subdivision. It will also connect to elevated section of the interstate and the twenty two foot levee system by Lakeshore estates. As you can see we have been boxed in on all sides. The parish has allowed all of these developments to build ring levees that are higher then we are. Remember, when our area was developed some 40 years ago, the properties were developed 10.5 to 12 feet above sea level. This height is 6 to 12 feet higher than any surrounding terrain. This afforded a level of flood protection because storm waters flowed around our development and dissipated inland. I realize this is not a good scenario for properties inland but, our development does not contribute to their flooding. If anything, our development helps break the storm surge. The Eden Isles and Oak Harbor community extends inland almost 2.5 miles which is right up against the levee system.  

  I and others have been fighting for flood protection for all who live in our region.  It also should be pointed out that it is irrelevant whether Eden Isles is a waterfront community or not. The storm surge which enters off the lake will be the same effect when it interacts with the levee systems in our area. I am asking our community leaders to consider all residents in this region when developing flood protection.   

JF

               
   Some studies show that the levees constructed east along the Mississippi river continuing through Plaquemine Parish and then along the MRGO influence the storm surge east of that location. At the public meeting held on June 16th, I discussed this issue with Troy Constance, one of the representatives of the Corps. Mr. Constance stated to me that he was unaware of this study.

     At this point it does not matter what additional water will be produced, the fact is that St. Tammany is under the threat of flooding with out a flood protection system.  Once this protection is in place ALL of the parishes that surround Lake Ponchartrain will be protected. This a big win for  everyone!

 

 

                              
 
Recently there have been several articles published in the Times Picayune pertaining to flood protection in this  region. I felt compelled to write the editor of the Times and express my views. Below is a copy of the letter I    sent. I hope you pass this information on to your neighbors. 

                                                        

                                               Letter to the Editor of the Times Picayune  
                                                              Date: June 6, 2010

   I am writing this letter in response to several recent articles that have been published by the Times Picayne in respect to regional storm surge flood protection. First, I would like to say that we do not have regional storm surge flood protection. We have selective   flood protection. The North Shore, which is a large part of the region, has NO flood protection. The plan that would have afforded the North Shore flood protection was called the Barrier Plan. This plan was designed by the Corps of Engineers, presented to Congress, and funded by Congress about 40 years ago. The Barrier Plan would have given true regional flood protection, but special interest groups and political wrangling foiled this project. There has been recent interest in reviving the Barrier Plan. However, environmentalists, both in the private sector and Corps ranks are protesting the construction of the Barrier Plan. They claim
 this plan may have devastating effects on the state of Mississippi. These environmentalists seem to be saying that the Crops would have created another major environmental and economical blunder if the project were built as planned. Remember, some of these protesters are members of the Corps. This really makes matters confusing to me. The fact is that these protests are based on dooms day theories, not hard facts. I invite those who are making these claims to show the public the hard data, not their biased theory.   

    I would also like to address an editorial response sent in by Mr. Dave Barnes, who is a commissioner on the board of the Southeast Flood Authority. Mr. Barnes states that he represents the North Shore in matters, which come before the Southeast Flood Authority. Mr. Barnes knows that he is a board commissioner and only represents from that position. He does not sit on a levee board for the North Shore. The North Shore has no levee board members, because parish officials abolished the position back in the mid 90’s. When decisions are being made for projects, the levee board members present those projects to the Southeast Flood Authority. I know of no projects that Mr. Barnes presented to the Southeast Flood Authority for the North Shore in the past 3 years. Some SELA Projects are now being started on the North Shore. These projects have been in the works for the past 25 years. St. Tammany parish was last to receive the SELA funds, which were distributed to all the other parishes first.  

    The fact is that there are over 260,000 people living on the North Shore, and as many as 60 percent of these people live in some form of a flood  plain.  It is time that the North Shore receives the same attention as the South Shore when it comes to flood protection.


    
This is the E-mail I sent to our Parish President Kevin Davis in regards to the SELA Project, which contains levee construction along the Schneider Canal and Fritchie marsh. The problem with this levee system is that it was developed 
  over 25 years ago and is now out dated. The e-mail explains the concerns of the residents in communities that may be affected by the levee construction.

Mr. Davis                                                                                                                Date: February 20, 2010

                   
   I am writing this correspondence in response to an announcement you made on channel 4-morning news a few weeks ago. This announcement was in relation to the Parish moving forward with a flood control project for the southern end of Slidell. I am asking you to reconsider how this project will be implemented due to the adverse effects it could have on over 2700 homes and businesses. These properties will remain in harms way once this project is finished. This project was designed by the Corps of Engineers over 20 years ago and was known as the Schneider Canal Project. When the Corps considered building this project over 20 years ago there was only approximately 300 homes and businesses that would have been affected. In the early studies of this project, the Corps recognized the fact that buyouts and mitigation efforts would be needed to offset the adverse effects to these properties. When I moved here over 20 years ago I, along with my neighbors, were aware of the terrain that surrounds our community. 

The surrounding terrain was between 6 to 12 feet below our development. This fact did afford us a level of protection as storm waters flowed around us relieving storm pressure. Since that time the Parish has allowed developers to build subdivisions using ring levee systems that are much higher than the surrounding developments. Once these ring levee systems are connected by the Schneider Project, it will form a closed end box. To the southeast will be the Torres levee at about 21' high. To the North will be the new levee system at 100 year height and to the northwest is the raised railroad track embankment which is 9'+. We believe that those of us inside the box will experience higher storm surges for a longer period of time. Compounding this problem will be the development of the flood control systems to our west that will protect New Orleans. By 2011 these projects will be completed and  upon completion will cause ALL storm surge waters to enter and exit through the Chef and Rigolets waterways. Surge pressure will increase in our region as the storm winds shift from the west while the storm is moving inland. This will force the storm surge on our shores to become trapped in the  new levee system.  I am asking that these 2700 homes and businesses be considered in the levee project. Currently, there are two projects that will include these areas. The first plan would put an I- wall or landscaped barrier system in the center of the Lake view road. It would then cross the interstate and connect with the Torres levee system on the eastern edge. The raised railroad tracks on the western side will form the other side along the lake. A levee system then would have to be extended north along the railroad tracks. This I-wall or landscaped barrier will be centered in the middle of the road and should not affect traffic or the homeowners. The designed openings would be created to allow access to either side of the street. I realize that there will be some objection to this project however, the negotiations should be much easier dealing with a hand-full of home owners as apposed to 2700 homeowners and businesses. The second project was proposed by the Corps of Engineers and presented to parish officials during a presentation, which took place in the Spring of 2009. This proposal formed a levee system in Lake Pontchartrain, incorporating state waters starting at the Torres levee continuing across to the Big Branch wildlife area. It then would head north to high ground. This project would afford the entire southern end of Slidell with protection. This may be our only opportunity to receive Federal aid for flood protection in our region. You know that I have been actively involved in an attempt shed light on the need for flood protection for all of St. Tammany. The Corps has resisted any opportunity to build the barrier plan, which was approved and funded by Congress some 35 years ago. I am also aware of the process to create a flood project. I realize that it will be next to impossible to get the Corps to consider another project for this region if we do not try to have the additional protection included in the current one. I am asking the Parish leaders to think long and hard before they selectively choose how this flood protection is implemented .   


The new articles below address the latest meetings and plans for flood Protection in St. Tammany            

    My Fellow Residents:                                                         Date: August 27, 2009

 

     On August 25th I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with C.P.R.A. director Garret Graves. State Representatives Kevin Pearson and Greg  Cromer arranged the meeting to discuss methods to expedite flood protection projects for St. Tammany and the region. Also in attendance were staff   members of Mr. Graves. We discussed a variety of subjects for about two hours. Mr. Graves and his staff listened to our concerns and promised to address them. Representative Cromer developed a strategy to address issues that the C.P.R.A. believes must be solved at the local and regional levels.  Below are topics that are believed to be standing in our way of achieving storm surge protection.

 
     Timeline:  

      
One of the main concerns is how long a project like this will take from conception to completion. Garret Graves stated that an average project takes  the Corps of Engineers about 40 years to complete. We were quick to respond that we do not have the luxury of waiting 40 years to develop such a  plan. We pointed out that we believe that the old as well as the new levee systems being built to our west along St. Bernard and Orleans parishes add  to the storm surge waters that flood St. Tammany. We presented Mr. Graves staff with studies from professionals in the engineering disciplines that  confirmed what we were saying.

      We emphasized the need to expedite the process because we felt that our protection project needs to be handled concurrent the protection projects that are being built to our west. One method to reduce the wasted time in the process would be to conduct the project as a design/build project. This method was used by the Corps to build the new MRGO closure. From the conception to the beginning of construction on the project was only a year and a half. We also pointed out that the Barrier Plan developed and engineered by the Corps over 40 years ago contains most of the studies needed to answer any questions that might arise. 

      Issues we need to address:
 
   Top on this list was the fact that we need to organize our local and regional parish leaders to speak as one voice. Mr. Graves has suggested that a commission of regional representatives be formed to speak in behalf of the stakeholders. He also pointed out that we do not have a levee board, which under the organization of the Costal Protection Restoration Authority, this levee board would respond to the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority. This would require the re-instatement of the levee board which was abolished by the parish several years ago.

  Issues with the Corps:
   
    You first must understand what position the Corps plays in the development of flood protection projects.  When the Flood Act of 1965 was adopted by congress it was decided that the Corps of Engineers would lead all the flood projects. It the past 40 years the Corps has tried to develop flood  projects in this region with little or no success. The Corps has been linked to the levee failures in Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes. They also designed and built the MRGO, which turned out to be a disaster for the environment as well as increasing the flood risk for the region. The problems continue with a report just issued by the federal government.  The report states that the Corps wasted a half of a billion dollars on the temporary pump system they built to protect the out fall canals in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. Engineers outside the Corps have questioned the capability of the temporary pumps to do the job they were intended to do.       

        On August 26th there was a front page article in the Times Picayune which Mr. Graves states that he believes the Corps is incapable of handling the costal restoration projects. Talk of corruption and poor management has now come to light in recent newspaper articles about the Corps. The Corps has lost the confidence of the public and this will have a direct effect on future projects. Along with the loss of confidence comes the lost of trust. We have recently experienced a situation were the Corps has attempted to de-rail the storm surge project that the parish council has proposed. 

          The Corps conducted a meeting with state of Mississippi officials in Hancock county and advised them to oppose the weir/barrier plan currently being proposed by St. Tammany. At the meeting with Mississippi officials the Corps stated theories of environmental disasters that would occur in their region if the barrier system was built. The Corps however did not present any facts to substantiate their claims. This was a very un-professional and controversial act. This action by the Corps pits the two states against each other because of the controversy they created at the meeting. The Corps was well aware that the two states have taken two different directions involving flood protection issues. Currently, the state of Mississippi has no plans to develop any flood protection system in thier region. The state of Louisiana has been involved in flood protection projects for the past 40 years. There is another issue that has now arose from this meeting. When the Corps stated their theory, they did not fully explain the barrier plan leaving Mississippi officials in a defensive posture against the barrier plan. 
     They also knew that the current plan they just recently submitted to congress would create controversy making it hard to pass congressional approval. This action would delay any attempt to develop the barrier plan. The Corps operates under a level of immunity when it comes to the design of the projects. The formality of meeting with the stakerholders are held, however little regard is given to the stakeholders and in the end the Corps does what they want to do. 

    

Our one big shot:  

          We now know that we need to expedite this project. The bureaucratic red tape of the Corps, the reluctance of Congress to fund any to additional projects, along with the Corps past track record with previous projects leaves us with one option. Simply put, if the levees to our west effect the storm surge in our area no matter how much, then we should be entitled to a mitigation project.
       
      This means the Corps will have to correct any flood risk they are creating in our area. It also will require them to act as soon as possible to correct the problem. Once the problem is identified, it exposes those involved to libelous repercussions if nothing is done to  correct the problem. The Parish Council has asked the Corps to begin the process to construct  the weir/barrier plan as soon as possible. The problem with this process is that it plays into the hands of the Corps. The Corps will make this a long term project. 
      
     Because of the time this takes, there is a strong possibility that our area will be hit with a major storm before the project is even started. On the other hand mitigation projects can be handled as design/build construction, which will cut years off the process. It also should limit the involvement the Corps will have.

 Outside interference:   

         One concern is that environmental groups will file suit if there is any type of surge barrier built in the marsh area along the  northern shoreline of Lake Borgne. It is enough to say that there will be very little environmental concerns where we are suggesting building the barrier system. There is already a barrier in the same location stretching from New Orleans east all  the way to Bay St. Louis. This barrier is the CSX rail system. I would also say if any suit is filed, officials should demand that all proof be presented to the public before any progress with the construction is stopped. I emphasize proof, not theory, of a bias environmentalist that has a personal agenda and motive. These groups have a long history of making erroneous claims in matters like this with little or no proof to  back them up. I believe one method to stop these frivolous suits is to make these special interest groups financially responsible for cost they force others to incur defending the project. 

      
        Conclusion: 
   

         We must make all of our residents aware of this information. We have about 100,000 residents in this region that now live in a flood plan. We also can no longer allow individuals that do not live in our area, along with special interest groups who have their own personal agenda, to stand in our way from achieving flood protection. Most these groups live behind the levees that are influencing the storm surge waters that flood our homes. The federal government has acknowledged the fact that the Corps is wasting money. They must also acknowledge the  fact that the Corps needs to correct the problems they are creating for us. State officials believe that the Corps is incapable of handling the coastal restoration, which adds to the public distrust of the Corps. If another storm hits we  may never recover from it. All you have worked so hard for will be ruined again, and no insurance or government help will replace it.

      
       We can change this by educating our residents and increasing public outcry.  It is time to take a stand and let our officials know that we will settle for nothing less than a protection system that will protect all residents in this region not just the chosen few
  

                                                    A little history about the levee systems

      Before 1965 and hurricane Betsy, floodwaters flowed in and out along the flood plain which was about 20 miles west of Slidell. This area incorporated a large portion of New Orleans East , St. Bernard, upper Jefferson, and St. Charles Parishes. The levee system that is currently protecting New Orleans East and St. Bernard was developed on the old flood plain after the 1965 flood act was commissioned.  Now, with the levees that were built after 1965 in New Orleans East, the floodwaters travel along the levee system paralleling the south lake shore line and exits at the five- mile opening by Hwy. 11 and the twin spans. This floodwater is forced by wind and surge east and then south as the storm itself pushes inland. The surge then forced by wind and surge height into Slidell. The construction of the levees as we know it today through New Orleans East did not exist prior to 1965.  
 
    This flooding does not just affect our community; it affects several other communities that border Lake Pontchartrain as well. All the communities together total about 40,000 residents. If you include other areas adjacent to the coastal communities, which now have a potential for flooding in large storms, this number jumps to over 100,000 residents. With the potential for loss of life along with property values, which are in the billions, it is obvious that this is a worthwhile and needed project.  As you can see we are not in this boat alone.

    So, what can be done? The construction of a flood control system at the Rigolets, Chef Pass, Pearl River basin, and the ICW  along with a levee system by the CSX rail road tracks that passes parallel to Lake Borgne will stop storm water from entering the lake. Reports produced by the Corps of  Engineers, along with many respected professionals, all agree that in order to create regional protection this control system will need to be installed.
  There are several plans being considered by the A.C.E. to achieve this goal.  These type of closures were proposed in the 1965 flood control act. The project was stopped when the environmentalist group, SOWL filed a suit in Federal court claiming that the gates would affect the lake’s ecology . St. Tammany political officials joined with S.O.W.L citing economic reasons not to install the gates. Judge Charles Schwartz issued an injunction until the A.C.E. could produce an environmental study. 
 
     After several years of discussion the Corps of Engineers decided to abandon the floodgates and go with a high levee system around the lake on the south shore. The Corps of Engineers, however warned that without the flood gates storm surge flooding was still very possible. Recently there has been a renewed interest by the Corps of Engineers to build these floodgates. We have a small window of opportunity to promote this effort in our behalf.  We must demand that these gates be built concurrently with the structures being built in the ICW.  
 
    The 100 year flood project being constructed to our west is funded by Congress and has a price tag of $14 billion dollars. I believe that this money would be better spent on regional protection as opposed to segmented work projects. The whole region will then benefit from this. If a regional protection system is built, the lake will be secured from storm surge, and there will be no need to raise the levees along the south shore . That money then could be spent on the regional plan.  Our strength is in numbers, and the communities affected must organize.

 Revised 6-17-09 JF