Recently, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the Bayou Chene Floodgate, a long-heralded project designed to protect southeastern Louisiana parishes against backwater flooding from the Atchafalaya River, according to this article from the Houma Times.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony saw Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards joining the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), the St. Mary Levee District, and other state and local leaders to celebrate the completion of the $80 million flood control structure. CPRA Chairman Chip Kline commented on the impact that will result from the completion of the 446-foot floodgate by saying, “the completion of the Bayou Chene Floodgate is a gamechanger for the homes and businesses across this six-parish region. With its installation, nearly 30,000 residents will be protected from Atchafalaya River backwater flooding.”
The Bayou Chene Flood Protection Project, which was completed using funding from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) and in partnership with the St. Mary Levee District, is positioned to act as a permanent structure and prevent Atchafalaya River backwater flooding from impacting St. Mary, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Martin, Assumption, and Iberville parishes.
Governor Edwards commented on the ongoing problem that Atchafalaya River backwater flooding has caused for the past fifty years saying, “this region has relied on temporary measures to prevent backwater flooding since the 1970s. With the completion of this decades-long effort, the people of St. Mary and the five surrounding parishes can rest easier knowing they’re protected by a permanent flood control structure. I applaud the collaboration between CPRAand the St. Mary Levee District that brought this important project to fruition.”
Before the Bayou Chene Floodgate, rising water levels in the Mississippi River would cause the Morganza Control Structure to open during high water events, thus diverting water from the Mississippi River to the Atchafalaya Basin. When this happens, the excess water creates backwater flooding and threatens the surrounding area. Now, the new structure will eliminate the need to sink temporary barges in the Bayou in times of high water, a flood-prevention act that has needed to happen four times since 2011, costing between $5.5 to $8 million per flood each time. The overall Bayou Chene Floodgate Project was a long-term investment from CPRA to eliminate this recurring cost, so the $80 million costs will surely be paid back over the next century.
Governor Edwards said of the expenditure, “this is a tremendous investment — it’s going to pay for itself over and over and over again.” According to Gov. Edwards, those temporary solutions to the problem would take approximately 10 days to install each time a flooding event would occur, but now the Bayou Chene Floodgate will only take 10 hours to close.
The Bayou Chene Floodgate was a component of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, and the efforts to complete the project were led by Louisiana Senator Bret Allain (R-Franklin) and State Representative Sam Jones (D-Franklin). Louisiana Sen. Bret Allain commented, saying that the impact of the project’s completion will be seen in the protection of 6,000 households and 1,000 businesses, totaling nearly 30,000 residents who will be impacted by the extra safety measure.
The executive director of the St. Mary Levee District, Tim Matte, spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in a prepared statement in which he relayed the state’s increased confidence in dealing with the challenges that are brought along with a rising Atchafalaya River and also that the previous temporary measures would be effective but ultimately costly and risky. Matte said, “now with the completion of the permanent structure, we can close the Bayou in a timely manner, with minimal impacts to the navigation interests, minimal risks to team members, and with minimal environmental impacts to the region.”
The ceremony concluded with CPRA Chairman Chip Kline celebrating the ongoing $1.3 billion dollars that have been allocated this year for ongoing state coastal projects. Kline said, “we’ve got a lot more work ahead of us,” Kline said. “And I know that if we continue with the partnerships and collaboration and coordination we’re going to be successful in protecting the overwhelming majority of our citizens and restoring our coast.”
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