Seawall project begins on Lakeshore Drive

A groundbreaking ceremony Thursday celebrated the construction of a new seawall stabilization and erosion control project along Lakeshore Drive that will both add flood protection and beautify the lakefront for enhanced recreation.

Adding elevation, a concrete cap and vinyl sheet piles to the existing seawall will break the energy of the waves and reduce erosion both on the other side of the wall and beneath the wall, according to officials at Thursday’s event.

The project will also eliminate what Gerry Gillen, executive director of the Orleans Levee District, called a “Groundhog Day” event — the frequent covering of Lakeshore Drive in eroded sediment by storms.

On a regular basis, including during smaller winter storms, waves from the lake dig out the dirt on the other side of the seawall and slop it on the road, resulting in the closure of Lakeshore Drive for weeks at a time and tens of thousands of dollars in cleanup costs, Gillen said.

Since the seawall was built in the 1930s, subsidence and a rise in water level have decreased the wall’s height, Gillen said. The project also will improve drainage along Lakeshore Drive and in the parking lots and parks.

Lambert J. Hessinger, vice-chairman of the Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Authority, lauded the combined effort and vision between the non-flood authority and the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.

The construction will add flood and hurricane protection and rebuild and improve non-flood assets in a responsible way, Hessinger said.

John Barry, vice president of the flood authority, noted that the project was a local commitment by the levee district that did not require any federal dollars, and that more such projects will get under way over the next few years.

The first phase of the project will be close to 3,900 feet in length and will begin about 400 feet west of Shelter No. 1 and end about 220 feet east of the Mardi Gras Fountain Plaza. Construction is expected to last approximately one year, and will cost just over $6 million.

The second phase will start in about nine months to a year and will stretch between Franklin Avenue and Shelter No. 4.

The new lakeside handicap-accessible concrete promenade will also feature an LED safety lighting system, 28 planters with palm trees, 35 benches and 25 trash cans.

Similar to the Mardi Gras Fountain area, a colored concrete plaza area will be built at Shelter No. 1.

During construction, one westbound lane of Lakeshore Drive will close intermittently while the other three lanes remain open.