Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee system expands

By:  Xerxes Wilson,

January 10, 2014


One year after passage of a half-cent sales tax to build flood protection in Terrebonne Parish, plans are in place to close the remaining gaps to protect Point-aux-Chenes to Dularge.

Last year’s levee work accelerated to a pace not seen before in Terrebonne, said local Levee District Director Reggie Dupre.

The district budgeted more than $100 million in June for construction this fiscal year, the largest budget it’s ever had, buoyed by sales tax, state and federal money.

“What we are doing is incremental, but it is substantial,” Dupre said.

Dupre described the Houma Navigation Canal barge floodgate as the “crown jewel” thus far in the system and the biggest accomplishment for the district to date.

The 270-foot floating barge was installed in the canal some 18 miles south of Houma. As storms approach, the barge will be towed into place and sunk into a frame across the canal, blocking storm surge from flooding areas around the channel as it has before.

Dupre claims the $50 million structure that sits 18 feet above the water level is the largest of its type in the state. The installation of a similar but slightly smaller structure on Bayou Grand Caillou was also completed this year.

“We are trying to put as many barriers between flood water and the people as possible,” Dupre said.

The local Morganza-to-the-Gulf effort aims to build 10- to 12-foot levees and 18-foot floodgates from Cut Off to Dularge across a similar footprint as the federal Morganza project.

Dupre said the district has prioritized two areas most lacking in protection. Its first goal is to build protection between Grand Caillou and Little Caillou, closing a gap in the protection system at the bottom of the Lake Boudreaux basin.

The basin has been the source of flooding during previous storms, filling with water and eventually flooding the surrounding areas of Chauvin, Dulac and Houma.

Just west of the Houma Navigation Canal floodgate, Reach F extends north along the canal and is under construction.

That levee ties into Reach E, which will run four miles west paralleling Falgout Canal to tie into Dularge. Reach E is planned and financed but awaiting regulatory approval. Dupre said he expects that approval to come in the spring.

East of the Houma Navigation Canal floodgate, officials are planning construction of Reaches G and H-1.

This span of levees will stretch four miles east from the canal floodgate just south of and alongside Bayou Salle Road before connecting with existing levees in lower Chauvin along La. 56.

That $35 million stretch is expected to be completely bid out in the coming month with construction starting shortly after.

Up Bayou Little Caillou in southern Montegut, Dupre said work will continue on improving the levee that ties into an existing levee at Humble Canal and stretch west to connect with Pointe-aux-Chenes.

Dupre said the existing levee was for marsh management. The levee district has gradually been raising, widening and armoring the stretch to provide protection from storm surge.

From south of Pointe-aux-Chenes, officials are preparing to build portions of Morganza within Lafourche Parish, which will provide further protection to those in Pointe-aux-Chenes and tie into the south Lafourche levee system.

This 10.5-mile section, known as Reaches K and L, will stretch from lower Point-aux-Chenes to Cut Off.

Late last year, levee officials in Terrebonne and south Lafourche completed an agreement to work together on the portion that Dupre said should be permitted in the spring.

Completion of those reaches, as well as the other projects, will enclose southern Terrebonne from Cut Off to Dularge with at least some protection, Dupre said. He said the work could be completed by the start of 2015’s hurricane season.

The district hopes that once the federal project is approved, the Army Corps of Engineers can upgrade the levees to protect against stronger hurricanes and storm surge. The federal Morganza plan has a local-federal cost sharing agreement. Local officials hope work done along the Morganza alignment so far can be credited toward the parish’s portion of the $10 billion project.

The federal Morganza project is awaiting congressional approval after receiving all necessary approvals from the corps.

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed different versions of the Water Resources Bill, one containing the project, the other eliminating it. Dupre said he expects a conference committee to approve a single version of the bill this spring.


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