Corps plans to address drainage north of I-10

A $141 million federal project that improved flood protection for Kenner’s residents also created flooding in some backyards, and now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is nearly ready to move forward with additional work to correct the problem.

The corps expects to open bids within the next few weeks for a subsurface drainage project along the western edge of Kenner to deal with rear yard flooding at homes north of Interstate 10, said Brad Drouant and Mervin Morehiser, corps project managers. A contractor will be tasked with building a collection system for the run-off from the recently completed West Return Floodwall. That water will then be funneled through newly installed culverts to canals and drainage systems in Kenner, they said.

Morehiser said officials couldn’t release the exact cost of the project because bidding is still active, but they expect it to be between $1 million and $5 million. The work is expected to take about eight months.

The project is welcome news for residents in the area, who have been plagued by flooding during rains since the floodwall project was completed, said Councilman Kent Denapolis, who represents many of those residents. Denapolis noted that when the corps decided to build the new floodwall, he and former Mayor Ed Muniz pushed for a design that would have kept the floodwall in the same spot it occupied prior to Hurricane Katrina.

However, the corps decided to use a design that pushed the floodwall about 35 feet further west. That additional space, plus a steeper slope on the floodwall, created some fairly serious run-off, Denapolis said. He claims he and Muniz foresaw this possibility, but it’s only now that the corps is taking action.

“We saw this coming from the start,” Denapolis said.

Kenner Public Works Director Jose Gonzalez said the city has received multiple complaints from residents about flooding in their yards, and he said those complaints were uncommon prior to the construction of the new wall. Any time there is a severe rain there will be some yard flooding, but the new floodwall exacerbates the problem, he said. No figures were available on exactly how many yards had experienced flooding.

“There was probably a problem (before), but we didn’t get a lot of complaints on it,” Gonzalez said.

Morehiser acknowledged that the flooding problem is partially the corps’ fault, but he noted that the area has likely always had flooding during heavy rains. He said that some properties already have drainage systems in their rear yards, while others lack them and have experienced more of a problem. Morehiser said corps is ready to not only fix the problem it helped create, but upgrade the city’s drainage in general.

“We’re not only going to correct the problem, but we’re going to fix something that’s been there for years,” he said.

The West Return Floodwall is more than 3 miles long and connects with levees in Jefferson and St. Charles parishes. The floodwall has an elevation between 16 and 17.5-feet above sea level, according to figures provided by the corps. The new floodwall has pilings driven as deep as 120 feet.