The LMA’s origins date back to the Orleans Levee District which established by Act 93 of the 1890 General Assembly (Legislature) of the State of Louisiana (the “District”). The District’s primary responsibilities were operation and maintenance of the levees, embankments, seawalls, jetties, breakwaters, water basins, and other hurricane and flood protection improvements surrounding New Orleans. Act 292 of the 1928 Louisiana Legislature authorized the District to dedicate, construct, operate, and maintain public parks, beaches, marinas, aviation fields, and other like facilities.
Development of The Lakefront of Lake Pontchartrain in the City of New Orleans started as a flood control project. Its purpose was to replace substandard levees and unsafe marshes with high land and protective structures sufficient to secure the City shoreline from high tide and hurricane winds.
The idea of a lakefront development project originated in 1873 when W.H. Bell, City Surveyor, formulated a plan that presented the possibilities of combining flood protection with land development. Almost 55 years later, the Legislature authorized the Orleans Levee Board to implement the idea. An amendment to the 1921 Constitution was made by Act 292 of 1928, which empowered the Orleans Levee Board “to perform certain works of reclamation, construction, and improvement” and authorized the Board to sell, lease, or dispose of land not dedicated to public use.”
The New Orleans Lakefront Project reclaimed 2,000 acres of land from the lake, extending for a distance of 5.5 miles. In 1926, the Orleans Levee Board issued $4 million in bonds which made possible the pumping of the first 36 million cubic yards of hydraulic fill, creating new land from marshes and swamps. Completed in 1930, the land fill encompassed the present area between Robert E. Lee Boulevard and the Lake from the New Basin Canal to the Industrial Canal.
In 1930, a permanent lakefront levee was begun with the construction of 5.5 miles of seawall. A concrete, stepped seawall was adopted as the best means of providing the greatest flood protection while deterring the increasing erosion of the shoreline. The 8-foot high seawall took 2.5 years to complete at a cost of $2,640,000. It became the City’s frontline protection on Lake Pontchartrain.
In 1931, the Orleans Levee Board began construction of Lakefront Airport on 300 acres of reclaimed lake bottom, which was protected by a vertical-type seawall. At the time of its grand opening, it was considered an architectural masterpiece. Built by the same architect that designed the Louisiana State Capital Building, it was the first major airport in the region. Inside the terminal building, travelers would find an Art Deco wonderland, featuring murals by artist Xavier Gonzalez, friezes by Enrique Alferez, and an array of stone wall and floor treatment. The Airport was dedicated on February 10, 1934
Built at a cost of $4.5 million, the airport had a field measuring 3,000 feet long, thus qualifying for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s highest rating, AA-I. The Lakefront Airport was one of the nation’s most beloved airports during “The Golden Age of Aviation” and attracted well-known historic figures such as Amelia Earhart.
Six subdivisions were planned and developed during the following time frames: Lake Vista (West)-1939, Lake Vista (East)-1946, Lakeshore (West)-1951, Lakeshore (East)-1955, Lake Terrace-1953, and Lake Oaks-1960. When the Orleans Levee District sold the lots associated with these subdivisions, purchasers were promised state of the art utility infrastructure, and exceptional community service including uniform application of building restrictions, neighborhood park maintenance, and police protection all to be provided by the Orleans Levee District.
The “Inner Yacht Harbor” now known as Orleans Marina was built by the City of New Orleans and in 1960 the City transferred the administration of the Marina to the Orleans Levee District. Since that time, the District has managed the facility which includes 351 slips, parcels for up to 65 Boathouses and 4 marine service facilities.
South Shore Harbor Marina was developed in the mid-1980s to complement the Lakefront Airport and the Orleans Levee District’s other Non-Flood Protection assets. It consists of 447 slips ranging in size from 30’ to 80’ as well as 26 covered boat slips along the western edge of the marina.