Bayou Chene flood protection is a priority for levee district
MORGAN CITY, La. — Moving forward in the design process for the $75 million Bayou Chene Flood Protection structure and continuing to get support to allow for a narrower structure is one of the major projects the St. Mary Levee District is working on, said Hilary Thibodeaux, levee district executive director.
Thibodeaux was speaker at the St. Mary Industrial Group’s monthly meeting Monday at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City.
The project is currently at a 5-percent design level. The next design level is 30-percent.
The current authorized width of Bayou Chene is 400 feet, but the district is looking to make the flood protection structure 250 feet instead of 400 feet, which it believes is sufficient for flood protection, Thibodeaux said.
The 400-foot structure would cost $20 million more than the 250-foot structure would cost, he said.
“We’ve been working very closely with local industry. We’ve received over 30 letters (including from the U.S. Coast Guard) … of support for a 250-foot structure,” he said.
“We’re going to be meeting with the Corps of Engineers to get their support as well before we really start getting into the permit process. … We’re still on schedule to provide flood protection for the 2015 season,” Thibodeaux said.
The district has also looked at how the narrower structure could affect industry, he said.
“We put a rendering together what our structure would be like with this structure (McDermott’s Auger platform) being loaded out … with elevation, our target, the structure would actually be able to load out over our structure. So the 250 (foot) structure can work,” he said. “Loading out” is a term some companies use to refer to delivering or removing a structure to their yards, he said.
The district has already received a permit to build a temporary flood protection structure consisting of sheet pile on Bayou Chene.
The Economic Development Administration recently awarded the levee district a $1.8 million grant to pay for engineering work for the project. “That was a major feat between the two economic districts, between Terrebonne and our area,” he said.
“The Terrebonne Levee Conservation District passed a tax this recent tax election and will be contributing $500,000 again towards engineering,” he added.
Thibodeaux said construction money is difficult to obtain so the levee district has “a backup plan” to get funding for construction of the Bayou Chene project, which would involve taking out a 40-year loan with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s road development program. “The beauty of that is that it’s a fixed rate. It can go down, but it cannot go up,” he said. “The real nice thing about it is that there’s no penalty for it being paid off early, so if monies do show up … we can actually pay this loan off early, but we’re not waiting around for the funding. We can actually proceed with the construction of this project.”
The district is working towards qualifying for the loan, he said.
Work on the Franklin Canal flood protection structure has begun, he said. The budget for the project was $3.2 million and the project is expected to be completed in June, Thibodeaux said.
“We’re working closely with local government, CPRA (Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority) … and (the City of Franklin) using CDBG monies and capital outlay money so we’ll be able to move forward with this particular project,” he said.
The district is also close to getting a permit to build a temporary structure on the Hanson Canal, Thibodeaux said.
Additionally, the levee district is focusing on eventually building permanent structures on Hanson Canal and Yellow Bayou. The budget for both projects is currently $6.2 million, which will come from St. Mary Parish Community Development Block Grant money, he said.
“At Hanson (Canal), it’s going to be basically a 12-foot gate … a swing-type gate to provide navigation along the Hanson area, and it’s just going to be one structure that’s going to tie into the levees,” he said. “For Yellow Bayou, it’s going to tie into the … levees using brace sheet pile wall. It’s going to have … gated culverts and also, two 48-inch pumps are being planned, currently, for the pump station to remove the amount of water.”