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Chemical storage terminal building its own floodwall in Braithwaite

Stolthaven executives and parish leaders break ground for floodwall project. Stolthaven executives and parish leaders break ground for floodwall project.

BRAITHWAITE, LA (WVUE) - Along the Mississippi River where the fog lingered Tuesday afternoon, a ground breaking took place at the Stolthaven Terminal, a facility where chemicals are stored and transferred.

It was ceremonial symbolism for a project Plaquemines Parish leaders believe will help the recovery of the Hurricane Isaac battered east bank of the parish.

In 2012, Isaac caused catastrophic flooding that still has the Braithwaite community limping along.

Even now, many neighborhood streets are dominated by boarded up homes.

Stolthaven, which saw 12 feet of flooding, is spending $20 million to construct its own floodwall that will tie into the federal hurricane protection levee which stretches along the river behind the terminal.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser applauded the Corps of Engineers' willingness to allow the private company to tie into the federal levee.

"And that's what's unprecedented, they usually don't allow that to happen from a private business, and the Corps really thought outside the box and worked closely with us," said Nungesser.

"This is not you granddad's Corps of Engineers, you know, they're forward thinking," said Maynard "Sandy" Sanders, executive director of the Plaquemines Parish Port.

Despite the upbeat ceremony, Stolthaven executives declined our request for an interview.

After Isaac, the facility made headlines not because of the floodwaters that invaded its property, but because of a chemical release.

"They should confine their plant and keep the chemicals away from everybody," said Troy LaFrance, a Braithwaite resident.

LaFrance worked on a water line in a front yard while discussing his frustration over the slow recovery of the east bank of the parish.

He said they desperately need the so-called "back levee" raised to a higher level to provide protection for homes and businesses.

"That back levee is maybe, currently five to six feet high, and how are you going to stop a storm surge that's coming in 15 to 20 feet high? You know, there's no marsh left, no barriers, nothing to stop it from coming in," said LaFrance.

Nungesser said the parish continues to work to provide more flood protection.

"We're building a levee over here, but there's not enough people to justify getting the federal funding for a federal levee, but we're providing what protection we can with the money we have in Plaquemines," he said.

And Nungesser said the floodwall under construction at Stolthaven will end up benefiting the nearby community.

"If this facility goes away our hopes of building the levee and getting people back to the east bank of Plaquemines - it doesn't happen without the investment of companies like this," said Nungesser.

The floodwall at the terminal is scheduled to be completed in time for the start of hurricane season.

But some residents said given the current state of Braithwaite, a full recovery is a long way off.

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