April 19, 2016
By: Jacob Batte, HoumaToday.com
A 9,000 foot gap in the middle of the Morganza to the Gulf storm protection system near Cocodrie should be completed this summer.
Known as Reach G-2B, the $13 million, 13-foot levee starts along Bayou Sale Road before connecting inland. Once completed, the storm protection system spanning multiple parishes will have about 30 miles of connected storm protection.
Terrebonne Levee District Director Reggie Dupre took the Courier and Daily Comet on an small tour of the construction Tuesday. Contractors from Ceres Environmental, known for their debris removal work in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, were laying the foundation for the levee. Work on the levee began last summer and contractors expect to finish this summer.
About 25 or so trucks carry sediment from a borrow pit about three miles up Bayou Sale Road. As the sediment is deposited, front loader tractors smooth it out. Contractors are laying the foundation from one side to the other first, so that they can shorten up the travel to and from the borrow pit. About 2,000 feet are left.
When the project is complete, Dupre said they’ll “armor” the levee, which can be seen from LUMCON, by adding rocks and fabric at the base to protect against day-to-day erosion
Federal law requires entities to create wetlands for every acre impacted by the project. This process, called mitigation, requires about 203 acres of marsh creation. Dupre said he expects to name a contractor for the $10 million project later this summer.
Dupre said this project, as well as another along Reach J near Pointe-aux-Chenes, are the two most difficult to construct because the work is being done over open water.
“You’re between ridges so…your solid ground, soil, can get iffy,” he said.
Reach G-2 was originally to include a floodgate at the end of the levee, but the Levee District Board opted instead for an earthen dam, known as a plug, instead. Dupre said a deal was recently reached with Ceres to build the estimated $750,000 plug for free, in a way.
Ceres also held three other contracts along Morganza, but missed the deadline on all three, giving the Levee District Board the opportunity to charge $511,000 in liquidated damages. But Dupre said the board would waive the damages if Ceres built the plug. The Levee District Board will vote on the change at 6 p.m. Wednesday at 220 Clendenning Road.
“We have to get something in return for the taxpayers,” said Dupre, who expects to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval on the plug this month.
Filling in the gap is a step toward a major milestone set by Dupre back in the late 2000s. The goal was to create about 35 miles of the system before the 2017 hurricane season. Reach E, which is about five miles, is expected to be complete early next year.
“By 2017 the 35 most vulnerable miles will have some storm protection without a single federal dollar,” Dupre said.