By BETSY SWENSON
MANDEVILLE–The engineering firm charged with studying the flooding problems along Mandeville’s lakefront offered some preliminary solutions at a public meeting Tuesday night.
Those solutions range from temporary to permanent, from $200,000 to tens of millions. But one thing was certain–Old Mandeville residents want something done to stop the flooding, and they want it done now.
For decades, Mandeville’s historic district has been plagued by flooding, with homes and businesses experiencing major flooding incidents dozens of times over the years. GEC Engineers, in a $280,000 contract with the city, is evaluating the storm surge issues at the heart of the flooding problem, and residents were eager to hear the engineering firm’s recent interim report and offer input on potential solutions.
Project Manager Jeff Robinson, a civil engineer with GEC, emphasized to the group that GEC is not recommending solutions at this time, but is still in the investigative part of the study, set to conclude in June.
Robinson said engineers at GEC have been using historical data to analyze storm surge and wave height along the lakefront, and have pinpointed some “desired functions” that could mitigate the flooding.
The cheapest improvement presented at the meeting, which would ideally function as part of a greater plan, would come in the form of flaps or valves on the storm sewer pipes that drain into the lake, preventing water from coming up through the pipes and flooding the streets. Old Mandeville residents say it’s not unusual for water to creep up through the city’s storm drains on a sunny day, as breezy conditions can cause the lake to rise just enough to push water inland while making it impossible for it to drain out. Such an improvement would cost about $200,000 Robinson said.
“The desirable function would be a potential solution that lets the water pass back into the lake as the lake will allow,” said Robinson. “By doing that one thing, you eliminate flooding across 26 acres.”
While that “flooding” comes in the form of saturated ground, or perhaps 6 inches of standing water on Lakeshore Drive, it sets the stage for more significant problems in the event of severe weather.
Other, more expensive improvements could come in the form of flood barriers such as a concrete flood wall extending all the way into Fontainebleau State Park, or other flood barriers such as Aqua Fence, Aqua Barrier or Rapidam.
The cost to address flooding that occurs at a 4.2-foot lake stage, such as was seen during Tropical Storms Ivan and Lee would be about $4.8 million. At a 5.3-foot lake stage, which the city experienced during Tropical Storms Bill and Gustav, protection would cost $5.9 million. And to protect the city from a 7.3 lake stage, similar to Hurricane Katrina, would cost $29.2 million, said GEC reports.
“This is going to take years,” said Scott Discon, owner of The Scotts’ Coffee and Tapas Bar, just a block off the lakefront. “Katrina hit eight years ago, and we still haven’t done anything in Mandeville, and we keep talking about it. We just keep sitting around and waiting, and I’ll be dead by the time this is finished.”
“Drowned!” added another resident, to the amusement of those attending.
“Why do I have to wait, as the owner of a business, another year? When I’m going to get flooded, and I’m going to have to close my business, and none of these people in here are going to have a place to have coffee,” he added.
Richardson said the flooding solutions would happen in phases, and with the study at the 50 percent mark, GEC is ahead of schedule, he added.
“We’re going to turn this thing in on time,” he said.
Following the meeting, Discon said he and other Old Mandeville residents plan to “storm city hall” at the next City Council meeting in the hopes of implementing the first phase of flooding improvements–adding flaps or valves to Old Mandeville storm sewer pipes–sooner rather than later.
City Councilmen Ernest Burguieres and Clay Madden said they were satisfied with the progression of the storm surge study and are eager to see some improvements in the city’s flooding problem.
“It was a good presentation,” said Burguieres, who represents Old Mandeville. “It’s a difficult subject. We should have done this years ago.”
Madden added, “We need to do this now,” noting Mayor Donald Villere and other council members are on board with implementing a solution as soon as possible.
“Let’s do this,” said an Old Mandeville resident. “Let’s get the check and get going. We want this done immediately.”