The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has started work on a $44.8 million project to construct 5,000 feet of underground drainage canal in central New Orleans.

The 38-month contract is being performed by Louisiana-based Cajun Constructors. It is part of the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA), which is designed to reduce the risk of flooding from a 10-year rainfall event.

A licensed arborist has commenced tree removal along the medians and pathways. Cajun Constructors will build 3,700 feet of underground drainage canal along Jefferson Avenue and 1,300 feet of underground drainage canal along Prytania Avenue. The new canals will tie into the existing canals at South Claiborne and Nashville.

Landscaping will be restored in the area when the project is completed in 2016.

SELA was authorized in 1996 by the United States Congress and is a project cooperation agreement between the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It consists of a number of individual projects to be designed and constructed throughout the parishes of Orleans, St. Tammany and Jefferson.

To date, the Corps has awarded 15 SELA contracts in Orleans Parish with work having been completed on nine of those contracts. All scheduled SELA contracts in New Orleans are expected to be completed by 2018.