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Coastal restoration board updated on New Orleans pump repairs and other projects

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(The Center Square) — Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board heard an update on work to fix corroded flood control pumps in New Orleans and a recap on coastal work in 2023.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Col. Cullen Jones told the board severe corrosion discovered on a flood control pump at the end of the London Avenue Canal in New Orleans has been fixed, and all 17 pumps in the system were inspected and prepared ahead of the 2023 hurricane season.

“Out of an abundance of caution, to ensure that we met capacity at London Avenue, we also executed a temporary pumping plan where we provided an additional 1,000 cubic feet per second of pumping capacity on station,” Jones said. “Thankfully, we did not need it.”

“Since then, we’ve been able to remove those pumps from that location and restore that area back to its original condition,” he said.

Jones said that the Corps and others are now working through corrective actions for all 17 pumps to ensure any other system deficiencies are resolved.

The work comes after the Corps found severe corrosion at the London Avenue Pump following overheating, and less corrosion at another with the Orleans Avenue Canal in February. The ongoing work involves a closer look at the city’s roughly 5-year-old combined permanent canal closure and pump stations, a vital element of the city’s hurricane levee system.

CPRA Chairman Bren Haase also gave the board a recap on accomplishments with Louisiana’s coastal program in 2023.

CPRA started 15 new construction projects valued at more than $3 billion and completed eight with a total value of $227 million, Haase said.

The projects included more than 10 miles of improved levees and about 6,600 acres of marsh created. The work required about 22 million cubic yards of sediment pumped in, Haase said, roughly equivalent to six Superdomes worth of dirt.

Some of the biggest projects included the South Pass Bird Island restoration, completed in September, and ongoing marsh creation in Grand Cheniere that will ultimately create up to 400 acres of marsh, both in Plaquemines Parish.

The largest living shoreline CPRA constructed, dubbed the Biloxi Marsh Living Shoreline Protection project, was also completed in St. Bernard Parish in May. Other major work included a Henderson Lake Spoil Bank Gapping project completed in St. Landry and St. Martin parishes in September, an ongoing Long Point Bayou Marsh Creation in Cameron Parish, work underway to improve pumping capacity at Bayou Lafourche impacting multiple parishes, and a Spanish Pass Marsh and Ridge Creation project in Plaquemines Parish completed in May.

Also completed in 2023 was the Large Scale Barataria Marsh Creation in Jefferson Parish. Other continuing work involves a Freshwater Bayou Canal Shoreline Protection project in Vermillion Parish and the Bucktown Living Shoreline project in Jefferson Parish, among others.

Haase also highlighted policy accomplishments in 2023 that included the first offshore wind energy lease in the Gulf of Mexico, the establishment of a chief resilience officer and task force, $55 billion in low carbon investments from the private sector, and a $1.1 billion solar panel manufacturing facility in Acadiana.

“It’s the largest facility in the western hemisphere, and it’s right here in Louisiana,” Haase said.

Other topics discussed Tuesday included CPRA’s $1.68 billion draft annual plan for fiscal year 2025, as well as an intent to sue for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act. The latter, tied to the proposed Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project, was reviewed in a closed executive session, along with ongoing litigation involving Plaquemines Parish.

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