News

Work to Start on Last Leg of Local Levee System

By: Meredith Burns, HoumaToday.com

June 2, 2015

http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20150602/ARTICLES/150609924/0/search

 

At the start of the 2015 hurricane season, levee district officials are looking to close the final gap in the central part of the Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee system.

Terrebonne Parish Levee District Director Reggie Dupre said when officials designed Morganza in late 2008, the first goal was to connect Bayou Dularge, Bayou Grand Caillou, Bayou Little Caillou, Bayou Terrebonne and Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes.

"Here we are in 2015, we're going to bid on the last leg. Basically you have some levee protection now — although it might not be high enough in all areas — from Pointe-aux-Chenes all the way to the Houma Navigational Canal," he said. "This last Reach E segment will get us all the way to Dularge."

Bids for the roughly $21 million Reach E are expected to go out this week.

Until that portion of the system is complete, Hesco baskets lined along Falgout Canal Road will help protect the area from flooding, said Mitch Marmande, an engineer with Delta Coast Consultants and the Morganza-to-the-Gulf program manager.

These interlocking baskets are filled with sand to offer flood protection to an elevation of 6 or 7 feet, he said.

"We quickly put that up so we would have some form of protection while we're building the Reach E levee," he said.

After the Reach E levee is built, the district will continue moving westward to protect lower Bayou Dularge by raising with parish levees and complete the Houma to Gibson portion of Morganza.

Since last hurricane season, various projects have bolstered the system between the Houma Navigational Canal to Pointe-aux-Chenes, leaving all levees either complete to a 12-foot elevation or under construction.

Marmande said even incomplete levees can help with flood protection this hurricane season.

"Any progress you have, water has to go up, around, somewhere to get in," he said.

One major project was the Bayou Petit Caillou floodgate installed this spring that connects levees at the point of the Lake Boudreaux basin and southern most point of the system.

The floodgate is still under construction but is operable as of last week, officials said.

Construction on Reach F, which runs from the Falgout Canal to the Houma Navigation Canal is also nearing completion and should be up to a 12-foot elevation by the heart of hurricane season, Marmande said.

In the next few months, crews will also help raise a segment of the Reach J up to 9 feet above sea level to help protect the Montegut and Pointe-aux-Chenes communities.

In January vandals caused an estimated $25,000 in damage when they set fire to both sides of the levee and shot 10 holes in the vinyl sheet piling with shotguns.

Overall, Marmande and Dupre said they are pleased with progress of the Morganza system, which has been paid for almost exclusively with state and local dollars.

"I think every day we make it better than the previous day," Marmande said. "This has been an interesting year in the fact that we've had a lot of rain and it hurts dirt moving, but we're still on track with the projects we have on the books right now."

But the project could be "light years ahead" if the permitting process was faster.

"For most time it takes longer to permit these things than it takes to build them, sometimes almost twice as much time to permit it than it does to build it," Marmande said.

Design contracts have been awarded for Reaches K and L, the most eastern portions of the system in Lafourche Parish, but the portions are awaiting federal approval.

The Pointe-aux-Chenes floodgate that lies on the parish line that connects Reaches J and K has been completely designed, Dupre said.

"By next year that will be well under construction, which means we're finally moving literally bridging the parish boundary," Dupre said.

The Morganza project will eventually tie into South Lafourche Levee District's ring levee system.

During the past year district officials in south Lafourche have been raising and shaping levees, working toward a goal of a 16-foot elevation in the south and 13-foot elevation in the north, said South Lafourche Levee District Director Windell Curole.

"That's what we're building to and we're going to be very close to that by the end of next year," he said.

Curole said one of the most important projects completed since last hurricane season is a 16-foot-high sheet pile wall placed at the Leon Theriot lock south of Golden Meadow that will match the height of the gates on either side.

The levees remain decertified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for not meeting stricter standards adopted after Hurricane Katrina.

Curole said the district is working toward eventual certification, but the main focus is elevating levees on their budget.

"Our job is not to pacify the corps. Our job is not to pacify FEMA. Our job is to keep water out of peoples' homes and businesses," he said. "After we do that job as good as we can, we will continue to try to get certified with all the things the government wants us to do."

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