Construction on new pump stations at the Orleans Avenue and London Avenue canals will require removal of small sections of floodwalls near Lake Pontchartrain before and during the upcoming hurricane season, meaning temporary barriers will have to be erected if a storm heads toward the New Orleans area, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The joint venture working on the $655 million project to build new pumps and gates at the entrances to the Orleans Avenue, London Avenue and 17th Street canals will build new walls in the coming months across the Orleans and London canals to connect their pump stations to the floodwalls on the opposite side of those canals, said Dan Bradley, senior project manager for the Corps.
To do so, they’ll need to lower the elevation of about 50 feet of canal walls on Marconi Drive, for the Orleans Canal, and Pratt Drive, for the London Canal, so that construction equipment can be moved into the area and do the work.
Because the work isn’t expected to wrap up until this fall, that will mean temporary structures will need to be constructed if a storm takes aim at the city before then.
Officials with the Corps said they have no concern about using temporary barriers — similar solutions were used on other parts of the area’s levee system during severe weather events in recent years — but they will discuss their plans with residents to alleviate any concerns.
“We want to make sure when residents see the work out there that we’re not catching anybody by surprise,” Corps spokesman Ricky Boyett said.
The Corps is working with its contractors on exactly how to close the 50-foot gaps in the system that would be created by the planned work. The current expectation is that crews will drive large, metal sheets in each area about a day before a storm is projected to make landfall, Bradley said. Those sheets will be at least 16 feet high, the hurricane protection standard for the area.
The temporary gates and pumps now operating at the sites, which push out rainwater from the city, will continue to function as they have in previous years, Bradley said. Though the canals will be partially blocked, the water will be pumped out through a bypass that’s part of each new pump structure, he said.
The work will result in increased truck traffic on Marconi and Pratt near the canals as material is brought to the sites.
A similar wall is now being built in the 17th Street Canal, but it should be completed before hurricane season begins, officials said.
The Corps will discuss the project at a quarterly meeting with residents at the Lake Vista Community Center, 6500 Spanish Fort Road, at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The pumps at the Orleans Avenue Canal are expected to be completed by April 2017. The London Avenue Canal pumps are due to be completed in August 2017 and the 17th Street Canal pumps in September 2017.
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