Corps to Shrink Pump Project on New Orleans’ West Bank

December 1, 2009

The Army Corps of Engineers says the cost of a $1 billion pump-and-floodgate project on the western side of the New Orleans area is rising, forcing the agency to consider cutting up to $300 million in work.

The Army Corps says it may reduce the number of pumps from 13 to 11, replace a 225-foot sector gate with a concrete barge gate and replace a T-wall with a levee. In all, the cost-cutting measures could amount to between $150 million and $300 million.

Changes could also involve lowering the “overbuilt” height of some flood-control features that are higher than needed for the project’s expected lifespan of at least 50 years.

The West Closure Complex is the centerpiece of an improved flood protection the corps is building on the West Bank, a suburban area on the western side of the Mississippi River. The corps hopes to finish the pump station by 2013. The project is being built on the Intracoastal Waterway to stop storm surge from entering canals on the West Bank.

“We are looking at eliminating some nice-to-have features that are not must-have features,” Tim Connell, a corps project manager, told the Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans.

Gerald Spohrer, executive director of the West Jefferson levee district, said the project’s cost could be cut without affecting its efffectiveness. But he said he would have to see the final plan before declaring the cost-cutting measures sound. He said he was concerned about the corps’ suggestion to replace the sector gate with a barge gate.

The prime contractor on the project is Gulf Intracoastal Constructors, a joint venture of Kiewit Corp., Traylor Bros Inc. and four other companies.

Information from: The Times-Picayune,

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