State presents coastal management plan
By: GEOFFREY STOUTE
MORGAN CITY — St. Mary Parish Levee District chairman and state Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, stressed to state Coastal Protection and Restoration officials the importance of including a flood protection structure in Bayou Chene in the state’s recently released master plan, especially considering projects in the plan include diversions of Atchafalaya River water into areas to the east, including Terrebonne Parish, to build up these starved wetlands.
When presented plans for the area during Tuesday’s meeting at the Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District’s office — which include diversions of sediment-filled water into the Upper Penchant Basin south of Avoca Island and diverting water along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway towards the Houma Navigational Canal — St. Mary Parish Levee District Chairman Bill Hidalgo said he did not have a problem with the diversions as long as there was a flood protection structure in place in Bayou Chene that could protect a multiparish area, including St. Mary and northern Terrebonne, from the possibility of that diverted water flowing upward and flooding these two areas.
Currently, the map shows no flood protection structure in the Chene, something, Hidalgo said, Terrebonne Parish and St. Mary Parish have agreed is necessary.
In fact, during Tuesday’s meeting, a flood protection structure in the area was not noted until Morgan City Mayor Tim Matte asked what one marking was on the map in the GIWW near McDermott’s fabrication yard, and CPRA officials said that it was a flood gate.
CPRA Executive Director Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, who presented the plan along with CPRA Coastal Resource Scientist Manager Karim Belhadjali, could not really give specifics about the plans for the river diversion because more planning, design and engineering are needed to hammer out specifics.
“We’ll have to do more study on it,” Belhadjali said. “As much as I hate saying it, anytime you’re talking about diversions, we’re going to have to do some more engineering (and) design.”
Zeringue added: “But there is a distinct difference in the term study. It’s not to study what needs to be done. We know what needs to be done. The study is essentially how to implement it.”
Among that work will actually be the modeling of the effects of riverine flooding on these areas, adding that no diversions would be put in place to make any problems that already exist worse. So far, models have looked at the impacts of storm surge.
What has been identified, with the diversions, however, is the benefits a diversion would provide these marshes.
What is loosely proposed is a diversion at 150,000 cubic feet per second into the Upper Penchant Basin south of Avoca Island and maintaining a minimum flow of 20,000 cfs east along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway towards the Houma Navigational Canal into eastern Terrebonne Parish.
The diversions, which will be controlled using structures, are included in the first scale of plans that are to be implemented between 2012-2031.
The diversion in the Upper Penchant is pegged at $808.6 million, while the one along the GIWW is pegged at an additional $301.48 million.
These are among 145 projects throughout coastal Louisiana that have been included that the state feels will protect its citizens and restore wetlands while using the available dollars.
Using its more than 40 funding sources, state officials project there will be between $20 billion to $50 billion available to do these projects. These figures do not include any Federal Emergency Management Agency monies the state might receive for work, while the projects listed do not include those that already have funding.
With the plan implemented, state officials believe the state can begin gaining land as soon as 2042.
In addition to the river diversions, other local projects included in the plan are a control structure in the Charenton Canal south of U.S. 90 and plans for shoring up banks on the GIWW from Intracoastal City to Amelia ($805 million).
Also, plans are for the creation of 5,834 acres of marsh on Point Au Fer Island ($635.9 million), flood-proofing and base flood elevation work within the rural areas of St. Martin Parish ($108.73 million), oyster barrier reef restoration in East and West Vermilion Bay in the areas of Dead Cypress Point ($20.99 million) and Marone Point ($22.54 million) respectively, and structural protection in the form of Amelia levee improvements ($262.52 million) and Morgan City back levee work ($151.72 million).
In the second implementation period, which is projected to run from 2032-2061, work includes the creation of 1,348 acres of marsh near Bayou Penchant ($380.19 million) and flood-proofing and base flood elevation work within rural areas of Assumption Parish ($290.14 million) as well as the Baldwin/Charenton areas ($7.69 million).
Other projects of local interest in this phase include:
—Flood-proofing and BFE work in Bayou Vista ($93.09 million), Franklin ($227.27 million), Morgan City ($385.66 million) and Patterson ($10.08 million).
—Flood-proofing and BFE work and voluntary acquisition of residential structures within rural areas of St. Mary Parish ($301.39 million).
—Structural protection from Berwick to Wax Lake ($285.14 million) and Franklin and the vicinity ($1,092.77 million).
Jones also requested work to raise levees on the Charenton Canal, which he said were constructed for riverine flooding but not storm surge.
He also noted that there are no levees from the Charenton Canal to the Iberia Parish line except canefield levees.
Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost 1,883 square miles of wetlands and have the potential, going forward, to lose 16 square miles per year and an additional 1,700 square miles in the next 50 years.
While Morgan City is provided some relief by the Atchafalaya River Delta, the only actively building delta which is growing from sediment that flows down the Mississippi and Red rivers, Zeringue said Morgan City is still vulnerable to effects of a storm that could hit to the west in an area such as Delcambre.
The master plan that is under consideration at the moment is required to be released every five years to make sure officials are using the best science and technology and are developing the best projects and plans.
Multiple focus groups, including oil and gas industry and fisheries representatives, nationally recognized scientists and engineers, federal, state and local agencies and academia, all were consulted when developing this plan.
Belhadjali said plans are to maintain the focus groups used in the master plan formations for consultation when CPRA submits its annual plan for each individual year.
CPRA will hold public hearings on the five-year master plan and will have representatives onsite to answer questions Monday through Wednesday in New Orleans, Houma and Lake Charles, respectively.
The Houma meeting will be held at the Houma Terrebonne Civic Center.
All meetings will feature a tour of the exhibits and an opportunity to ask questions at 1 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., a public hearing will be held.
A public comment period is ongoing until Feb. 25, and those comments will be considered in the final Master Plan, which CPRA will adopt in March and submit to the Louisiana Legislature soon after for approval during its annual session.
The draft master plan is available at www.coastalmasterplan.louisiana.gov/2012-master-plan/draft-2012-master-p....