Flood control delays worry Mandeville residents _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD - A drainpipe can be seen Wednesday, July 30, 2014, on the Mandeville Lakefront at Girod Street and Lakeshore Drive. High tides from storms and hurricanes can cause a back-flow of water from Lake Pontchartrain into Mandeville.

Sometimes, even on sunny days, if the wind is from the east, Mandeville resident Gerard Braud gets worried.

Braud’s house sits near the western, or lower, end of Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville — so low, in fact, that when the lake level rises with water blown in from the Gulf, it sometimes bubbles up through the drains on the street in front of his house.

“The street floods with water,” he said. “I can’t get a car out because the drainage system in Old Mandeville is so poorly designed.”

While flooding in Old Mandeville during major storms — such as 2012’s Hurricane Isaac — is predictable, for some residents it takes far less than a major storm to cause a problem.

“All it takes is wind, and it fills like a bowl,” Braud said of the area around his house.

Braud’s complaint is backed up by a study done late last year by the engineering firm GEC. According to the study, it takes a 3-foot surge to cause water from the lake to flow back up the city’s drains and culverts into Old Mandeville. Such flooding is a virtual certainly at least once a year, the report said.

One possible way to help prevent flooding would be to attach rubber flap valves to the end of each of the city’s 32 drainpipes. The valves would allow water to drain into the lake but wouldn’t let water flow from the lake into the city.

But even though GEC endorsed the idea in February and the Mandeville City Council allotted $1 million to flood protection in the city in the 2013-14 budget, no valves have been installed.

To speed the process, a petition with about 70 signatures — though some of the signers listed Covington addresses — was sent to Mayor Donald Villere last week.

The petition reads in part: “We the undersigned citizens of Mandeville do respectfully request that the city of Mandeville begin to put flood gates on the canal, flapper valves on the drainage pipes and any other prevention method to prevent flooding in Old Mandeville.”

Some signers, including Braud, blame the delay on Villere. “We can’t seem to get the mayor to do what needs to be done to protect us all before hurricane season,” he said.

Braud’s complaint echoes that of some council members, especially Rick Danielson and Ernest Burguières, who have pushed for the valves’ installation since last summer, and who have often complained that the mayor is dithering.

Villere said the petitioners are misguided.

“It’s not because the city doesn’t want to do this,” he said. But the job of purchasing and installing the valves is complicated, he said. The city decided to purchase five valves initially to see how well they worked. That process was delayed when the city had to reject the low bid for the five valves on a technicality.

“We put it on the bid that the person had to have five years’ experience,” Villere said. “The person does, but the company doesn’t.”

The other 27 valves haven’t even been bid out yet because the city is still “scoping the work,” Villere said. Some of the pipes are different sizes and present different challenges, and a bid must lay out precisely what is required in the job, he said.

Villere blamed the residents’ frustration on the council, saying he believes some of the residents are getting bad information from their council representatives.

“Unless you are involved in the process, you don’t understand that it takes longer than it seems it should,” Villere said.

“Nothing is going to be in before the end of this hurricane season,” he said.

Not surprisingly, that’s too long for Braud.

“The reality is that 30 days from today will be the ninth anniversary of Katrina and the second anniversary of Isaac,” Braud said. “I would like to see some urgency. Thirty days for a bid is too long.”

Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.