By: Andrea Mujica, HoumaToday.com
With less than a month left until the hurricane season officially arrives, Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes have more protection against storms compared to last year.
Reggie Dupre, executive director of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District, said there are a few projects that were finished for this season.
One of these projects is the $12.4 million Pointe-aux-Chenes floodgate on the Terrebonne-Lafourche parish line. There are also 35 miles of continuous levee protection with the Morganza-to-the Gulf levee system that protects the areas from Pointe-aux-Chenes to Bayou Du Large.
“Now the gaps at Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes, Bayou Four Point and Falgout Canal Road have been closed, creating a true barrier that connects the five bayous in Terrebonne Parish,” said Morganza program manager Mitch Marmande.
Dupre said that was a big accomplishment.
“Our first goal we set was to connect the five bayous together along as alignment,” Dupre said. “In less than 10 years we met that goal with no federal appropriation from Congress for Morganza-to-the Gulf.”
He noted how the parish is much better protected than 10 years ago when hurricanes Gustav and Ike hit the parish.
“We are much better prepared now than we have ever had been because of the combination of the Terrebonne Parish Levee District and the Terrebonne Parish consolidated government jointly building better protection and raising or building new levees, plug gates and all,” Dupre said. “I guess what you have now that we did not have 10 years ago are the beginning stages of a redundant storm surge protection system for Terrebonne Parish.”
The parish government has also worked to raise the interior parish levees, providing a double line of defense against incoming storms.
The Reach E, a roughly four-mile stretch of levee south of Falgout Canal Road, has been completed, tying together the levees between the Houma Navigation Canal and Bayou Du Large. There were some improvements in the Montegut area to increase the height of the levees from 9 feet to 12 feet. The Reach G1 Levee in Pointe-aux-Chenes was also raised from 9 feet to 12 feet.
The parish still has $15 million in projects under construction. Reach J3 in lower Pointe-aux-Chenes, a levee up to 12 feet, is completed. Reach J1 in Montegut was rehabilitated as work continues on Reach J2. There are already 12 navigable floodgates and No. 13 is under construction.
Windell Curole, general manager of the South Lafourche Levee District, said about five miles of the south Lafourche levee system was raised from 14 feet to 18 feet.
“We have also raised a good 60 percent of the levee in a lot of places as much as 45 feet,” Curole said. “Gustav hit us on a critical path, but we have improved immensely. We’ve got almost all of the northern part up to a 13-foot elevation. However, there are still a couple of gaps that are still at a 10-foot elevation.”
Because of a shortage of money, there has been some delay on the improvements, but Curole said local tax money and state aid have helped a lot.
“We just feel disappointed we are not as further along as we would like to be,” Curole said.
The North Lafourche Levee District has made other storm protection progress.
“The Zeller-Larousse project in Kraemer is working to improve the levees that were topped by hurricane Isaac in 2012,” said Dwayne Bourgeois, North Lafourche Levee District executive director. “We are working on some other projects such as levee lifts in Lockport, improving the levee elevation in the area, which for the most part will definitely improve the protection in Lockport for this season. There is a lot of dirt being moved.”
However, despite the improvements in the levee structures around both parishes, Dupre warns residents that these protection systems do not offer complete immunity against storms. They they just offer a means to reduce the impacts of flooding.
“Overestimating flooding is almost as dangerous as underestimating it,” Dupre said. “There is a reason why these projects are called flood reduction systems instead of risk reduction. They provide the protection against the possible flooding, but risks are always there.”