Monday, March 05, 2012

Louis Armstrong Airport rain runoff is taxing Kenner's aging drainage system

The rain that hits the pavement at Louis Armstrong International Airport is overtaxing Kenner's aging drainage system, Jefferson Parish officials said. And the airport's expansion plans have added exigency to finding a solution sooner rather than later.

"We want to get ahead of the game because they plan to expand," Jefferson Parish Public Works Director Kazem Alikhani said.

The airport's concrete expanse has long funneled runoff into drainage pipes beneath nearby residential areas. Alikhani said the drainage system must move about 1,000 cubic feet of water per second more than it currently does to keep flooding to a minimum.

To that end, he said airport and parish officials have bandied about different plans that range from building a new pump station at the airport to expanding the station that straddles the parish line canal between St. Charles and Jefferson.

Councilman Ben Zahn, whose 4th District includes most of Kenner, said the situation has a place in the forefront of his agenda.

"That's an issue that should have been resolved in the last four to eight years, that hasn't been resolved," he said. Zahn took office in January, succeeding Louis Congemi after he served two four-year terms.

Alikhani said the parish line pump station can move about 900 cubic feet of water per second, and that the first phase of improvements would expand that capacity by 300 more cubic feet. It's in the design stages now, he said.

A full expansion of the pump station to increase its capacity by 1,200 cubic feet per second will cost between $16 million and $20 million, Alikhani said. The parish hopes to partner with the airport and Kenner to lobby the Federal Aviation Administration to help pay for such upgrades.

The Army Corps of Engineers' major improvements to the West Return Floodwall and the earthen levee along the parish line canal have added to Kenner's drainage woes, but only minimally so, said Carl Anderson, a senior project manager for the corps. When the wall was moved 35 feet to the west to accommodate the corps' 100-year storm protection plan, it increased the acreage in Kenner that needed to be drained during storms.

However, the corps built a drainage system to funnel the excess water into the parish line canal, he said. The corps also accounted for an expansion of the parish line pump station by leaving access pipes big enough to accommodate larger capacity pumps, Anderson said.

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