Starting over: Those outside of St. Bernard’s levee protection move forward after IsaacSep 14th, 2012 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: Top Story
It has been nearly two weeks since Hurricane Isaac came slowly trudging up from the gulf, wiping out power for days and pummeling Southeast Louisiana with heavy rainfall. Most areas in St. Bernard Parish have cleaned up and put this event behind them, as the impressive new flood protection system
worked as designed.
Fortunately, the majority of the parish was kept safe from the level of flooding that was seen seven years ago, but the area outside of levee protection— most of District E— still has a long way to go before Isaac becomes a distant memory.
Cleanup and rebuilding
Reggio, Florissant, Delacroix, Alluvial City, Shell Beach, Hopedale and Ycloskey received substantial flooding and wind damage during Isaac. Since last week, the state and parish have worked expeditiously to clear roads of debris and mud, but residents and business owners still have a lot of work to do on their own.
During the storm, boats were pushed into the marshes before the high flood waters receded. Since then, the water levels are much lower, leaving many vessels landlocked. Furthermore, cranes will be needed to pull them back into the water— a much higher cost to the boat owner than simply pulling the boat back in when the waters are high.
Homes and businesses that have already rebuilt several times before are having to do it once again, and some are questioning whether or not they have the energy to start over.
Lionel Serigne, owner of Serigne’s Boat Launch in Delacroix, feels that although Isaac’s damage to his shop was not as dramatic as previous storms, he has much more of a mess to clean up this time.
“I wish it would’ve taken it all but this is ten times the work,” he said frustratedly as he glared at the metal skeleton of his bait house. “I have to tear it down and straighten it out. Katrina took it and left a slab.”
Robbie Campo of Campo’s Marina in Shell Beach is in a similar position. Like Serigne, he is tired of rebuilding but refuses to let Isaac destroy his family business. The bait room at Campo’s Marina suffered extensive damage, and there is currently no ice, gas or bait, which has an adverse effect on the area’s commercial fishermen. These things are essential for them to get back to work.
“Commercial fishermen have been asking when we’re coming back; it’s just a lot of work,” said Campo. “In a week-anda- half, we got everything torn down and cleared out, I think we’ll have gas by the end of the week, and I have Entergy putting up electricity now. We got a lot done in a week-and-ahalf, but still have a lot to do.”
Campo says he came out August 29 via boat to rescue someone he knew who stayed despite the mandatory evacuation warnings and swung by the marina —a stonesthrow from the Katrina monument— to check on it, tying up loose boats in the bayou on the way.
“We picked the guy and his two dogs up in the boat. There was about 8-feet of water on the highway to get here,” Campo explained. “When we got to the marina, and the water was up to Jesus’ beard on the monument.”
Currently the backdown ramps are open to the public, and there is a drop box for money. “It’s the honors system, so be honest,” said Campo with a laugh.
By the end of September, he expects the marina to be fully operational and offer full services, but he admits that he is very worried about the cost of repairs.
The damage totals are coming in around $250,000, and he’s not insured.
“That figure doesn’t include the money you lose everyday from not being open,” said Campo. Campo says he got some FEMA assistance after Katrina and Gustav, but it took a very long time to see the money come through.
Despite the work ahead for his family, Campo says he is optimistic about the clean up and rebuilding.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “I’m going to be here, my brother and dad are going to be here rebuilding; we’re going to hammer ‘till the last nail is down.”
Unfortunately, Isaac’s damage isn’t limited to structures on land.
District E Councilman Monty Montelongo manages oil and gas wells out in the waters of Delacroix. One of his well sites was badly damaged during the storm, and Montelongo estimates that they need around $100,000 in repairs. The oil company is currently deciding whether or not to open the facility back up.
“I came out September 1 to survey the damage and didn’t
think it would be this bad,” he said.
Long-term solutions and the 2012 Master Plan
Montelongo, like many other residents in the area, feels that rebuilding the barrier islands and wetlands is crucial to reducing the effects of hurricanes and strong storms.
“Your first line of defense are the barrier islands,” explained Montelongo. “You want to fight your battle further out, not on the home front.”
The 2012 State Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast has equal restoration and flood protection solutions, and projects range from structural protection, oyster barrier reef creation, ridge restoration, shoreline protection, marsh creation and sediment diversions.
In the past, barrier islands were thought to be the most obvious solution to combatting storm surge, but those who worked on the Master Plan feel barrier island restoration is not sustainable.
St. Bernard’s master plan project list includes a 270- acre ridge restoration project
for Bayou La Loutre, which according to the plan will “provide coastal upland habitat, restore natural hydrology, and provide wave and storm surge protection.”
The cost of that project alone is $65 million and the time frame is 2012 – 2031.
There are also several marsh creation projects in the pipeline for St. Bernard, including a $147 million, 550 acre project in Hopedale, which will “create new wetland habitat, restore
degraded marsh, and reduce wave erosion.”
Additonally, there is a $620 million Lake Borgne Marsh Creation project which will restore and protect 2,230 acres of marsh along the south shoreline of Lake Borgne.
The funding for the exhaustive list of state-wide projects is expected to largely be obtained from the RESTORE Act.
The RESTORE Act, which was introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu, was included in transportation legislation
signed into law by the President in July of 2012. This legislation will dedicate 80 percent of BP’s
Clean Water Act violations to Gulf states for economic and ecological restoration.