Engineering 'dream team' starts on Chene
By: JEAN L. KAESS
MORGAN CITY — With the approval of a task order bringing Shaw Environmental to the “dream team” of engineers, work on the Bayou Chene project officially began Thursday.
During the St. Mary Levee District’s monthly meeting Thursday, Shaw joined T. Baker Smith and Miller Engineers to complete the trio of companies who will work together to design the structure that would protect this and many other parishes from backwater flooding in times of high water or hurricanes.
Each brings a different ability to the table, whether it is extensive local knowledge or specific design abilities, Executive Director Hilary Thibodeaux said.
This also brings to sum total three major projects the district is undertaking at the same time. The district board received updates on those and several other ongoing projects during its meeting.
Design work on Yellow Bayou and the Hanson Canal project will begin this month with an estimated start date for construction set for October. A pre-engineering meeting is slated for next week.
Work continues on securing rights of way, according to Reid Miller of Miller Engineers in Franklin, but should only have to come from the parish and the Bayou Teche Wildlife Refuge. Private landowners already have existing servitudes.
For the Franklin Canal project, Will Norman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said the project is ready for bid and land rights are being finalized.
On Avoca Island repairs, T. Baker Smith representative Jason Kennedy said they have received the verbal OK to restore what was impacted by the spring flood event. Further restoration efforts will include planting trees in specific areas.
To close out the flood protection measures permit there, Thibodeaux said the district is required to cover borrow areas with existing spoil. This will be accomplished by Schexnayder Dump Truck and Backhoe for $8,250.
Intergovernmental agreements are being considered to allow parish drainage districts and other levee districts use of a vast amount of sheetpile in the district’s possession. With that comes the promised return of services or aid when needed by the St. Mary district.
Approval was given by FEMA to dispose of the sheetpile in this manner as long as the receiving district pays costs for retrieval.
The first agreement, as they are being considered in order of urgency, was approved by the board Thursday for St. Mary Drainage District 2 to utilize 9,000 square feet of sheetpile in order to shore up a portion of the Walnut Street levee that is quickly eroding.
Other interest has come from St. Mary districts 6 and 1 along with other area levee districts, Thibodeaux said.
President Bill Hidalgo instructed Thibodeaux to ask for help with storing the sheetpile and to use it strategically within the parish. For those outside the parish, he said to request in-kind services. Over 30,000 square feet still is available. It is stored at Athena Construction.
In other action, the board:
—Received a report from Parish President Paul Naquin concerning his trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with legislators. Among items of concern was the modified Charleston method of determining how many acres of land must be remediated when dealing with development in wetlands. Currently, the amount is 1.1 or 1.2 acres to every 1 acre developed. The U.S. Corps of Engineers is seeking to increase that amount to 3 to 1. Naquin said Sen. Mary Landrieu is considering introduction of a bill to credit the levees themselves as a portion of the remediation because they do, in fact, protect the area from tidal flooding.
—Approved a permit for Exxon-Mobil to remove pipelines and a permit for Joe C. Owens who wishes to reinstall fences and gates on the Wax Lake East levee where his animals graze.
—Approved the personnel manual which contains purchasing guidelines, allowing Thibodeaux to do his job without having to call a special meeting. The board did not approve the vacation and benefits section.
—Introduced amendments to the by-laws that tighten up some sections dealing with subdistricts, clarify purchasing guidelines and change the meeting place in accordance with the new office. Adoption will take place in 30 days.
—Approved a new attorney contract which amends the law firm’s name.
—Introduced a draft letter to landowners on levee use restrictions. Rules will be discussed in April.
—Declined to take action on the removal of flood structures (sheetpile) that close the Hanson Canal. Only two to three outdoorsmen per season are affected by the blockage. Add to that the cost of roughly $14,000 per removal and replacement and the impending start of hurricane season, and the board decided it was too much cost to convenience so few individuals.
—Agreed to discuss in April an emergency services request for quotes to prepare for emergency situations.