Near Mandeville and off Lake Pontchartrain is Bayou Chinchuba, the site developers want.

Just west of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway lies an undisturbed pocket of nature in a parish exploding with development. Near the old neighborhood of Lewisburg at the mouth of the Chinchuba Bayou floodplain in St. Tammany Parish, the lakefront land is filled with marsh grasses and cypress trees. For decades, developers have had their eyes on the site, their plans always meeting strong opposition from residents, environmental groups and local and state officials. But some fear that could soon change. Last year, the current landowners applied for a coastal use permit that would allow them to fill in the wetlands and lake bottom, add a bulkhead and a private road, and eventually build four homes. St. Tammany Parish government has not yet taken a stance on the project, but environmental experts say if it happens it could dramatically alter the ecological landscape and contribute to flooding. “Everybody wants a piece of paradise,” Ted Ralph, a nearby resident and retired federal engineer, said as he pointed out the site of the proposed development from his fishing boat. “There ain’t enough paradise to go around anymore so you got to create paradise out of the wetlands and the marsh.”

The owner expects the petition to be granted and lake front properties are all along the north shore in this area. Just doing what others have done.

James Bradford, one of the landowners who applied for the permit, said he expects the permit to be approved because the development is consistent with others along the lakefront in Mandeville: “Large lots with valuable homes on them along the lakefront.” James Bradford, one of the landowners who applied for the permit, said he expects the permit to be approved because the development is consistent with others along the lakefront in Mandeville: “Large lots with valuable homes on them along the lakefront.” Ultimately, it will be up to the state Office of Coastal Management to decide whether to grant the permit.

The land, as is, can support more trees and natural development. Houses would not help.

John Lopez, a coastal scientist contracted by the Lewisburg Civic Association to review the permit for the development, said the wetlands are healthy enough to sustain cypress trees, further reason it should remain undeveloped. Lopez said that the development could exacerbate flooding issues in the Mandeville area by slowing down the water’s exit from the Bayou Chinchuba watershed into Lake Pontchartrain. A bulkhead could also exacerbate erosion in adjacent areas, he said. If the land is filled and a road built, Jack Jenkins, who lives in the nearby Sanctuary subdivision, fears his neighborhood could flood during storms because “the water from the Chinchuba has nowhere to go … the road would act like a levee.” Jenkins said his property along the lake shore has rapidly eroded over the years and he fears such a development would make things worse. State environmental agencies said that filling in the land would displace 2.5 acres of shallow intertidal habitat, including areas where “valuable” submerged aquatic vegetation are known to live, as well as potentially the West Indian manatee, a threatened species. The agencies also raised the potential issue of runoff from the construction site or from future sewage or water systems running into Bayou Chinchuba, a designated Natural and Scenic River. The state Department of Natural Resources biological investigation report of the project found that there was no “need” for the project, as there are other available lakefront properties for sale in the area.

A lot of players will be involved and some are not in favor of the project. Others will have to make their decisions.

Mandeville Mayor Clay Madden, who lives in the nearby Old Golden Shores area, which is inside the city limits, said he was opposed to the development due to possible flooding problems. St. Tammany Parish Council member Mike Lorino, who represents the area, said the parish would likely wait for the Army Corps of Engineers to decide whether to grant a permit before weighing in. If approved, he said he would have “many questions.” Agencies ranging from the National Marine Fisheries Service to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have opposed past plans to develop the land, including 2007 when a former owner wanted to fill it and subdivide it into 11 lots. David Lawton, a Lewisburg resident and opponent of the development, was among dozens of residents who submitted a comment to the Office of Coastal Management in response to the permit application. In his letter, also signed by the Lewisburg Civic Association, he said there’s no need to develop the land for expensive residences because other sites are available. “Each little slice of shoreline, marsh and productive waters taken away hurts the lake, the aquatic culture, and the birds and animals whose lives depend on this type of habitat,” Lawton wrote.

Overall it looks not to certain but developers have a way to win over odds. Time will tell.

Bayou Chinchuba to be filed for development
Tagged on: