Area governmental officials asked for help Friday on both dredging and flood protection projects from the commissionthat reports to Congress on a vaiety of projects along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
The Mississippi River Commission held a public meeting at the Port of Morgan City dock as part of its annual low water inspection trip to get comments and concerns of different entities and people regarding the Mississippi River and waterways connected to it. General duties of the commission include recommending policy and work programs, studying and reporting on the necessity for modifications or additions to the flood control and navigation project and conducting semi-annual inspection trips, according to the commission’s website. Commissioners present their findings from the trip to Congressand try to get money “to fix those things that need fixing,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Kaiser, commission president and commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division. Since the beginning of 2018, Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District officials learned the Port of Morgan City should get about $42 million through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers within the next two years to dredge its waterways, which is a drastic increase in funding compared to the past few years. Officials plan to use those funds to dredge the fluff, or fluid mud, from the Atchafalaya River Bar channel that begins at the mouth of the Atchafalaya River and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Also, the money will be used to dredge sand in Atchafalaya River itself. Keeping the Atchafalaya River and bar channel consistently dredged to the congressionally authorized 20-foot depth is crucial to the area economy, port leaders say. Raymond “Mac” Wade, the port’s executive director, thanked everyone involved in the “team effort” to secure those extra funds. He also asked for help from the Mississippi River Commission to speed up the approval process to allow Brice Civil Constructors, an Alaskan company that has agreed to build a vessel to dredge the bar channel, to begin work dredging to get the fluff in suspension and thus facilitate more waterway commerce. Kaiser said that Corps leadership will listen, help the port on the issue and “get after this.” Among the new dredging money for the Port of Morgan City are operations and maintenance funds, which went from about $6 million for the past fiscal year to $12.7 million for the Corps of Engineers’ 2019 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2018, Wade said. Officials learned they should receive another $9 million for dredging in the 2018 fiscal year work plan and $20 million in supplemental funds as a result of a Hurricane Harvey federal relief package. In 2016, the port conducted a dredge demonstration in the bar channel that showed the method to agitate the fluff was successful and feasible, Wade said. Theport spent roughly $2 million of its own money in 2017 to try to build a dredge before Brice showed interest in the job.During Friday’s meeting, Tim Matte, executive director of the St. Mary Levee District, said that having properly dredged waterways are not only important for the community’seconomic viability, but also important to reduce the threat of flooding. A river channel that is filling up with sediment has less capacity to carryflood waters and exacerabates that threat of backwater flooding through waterways connected to the Atchafalaya River, Matte said. Matte discussed the longtime threat of backwater flooding in the region from the Atchafalaya, and the ongoing $80 million Bayou Chene Flood Control and Diversion Project, which is still in the permitting stage. Officials expect a combination of federal funds from the Restore Act and Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act to pay for the project. He asked for the Mississippi River Commission’s support and assistance to move forward on the project for which the levee district hopes to soon receive a Corps permit. The district first met with permitting officials at the end of 2012 and applied for the permit in May 2013. In 2011 and 2016, the levee district undertook the task of installing a temporary barge on Bayou Chene in Amelia to prevent potential flooding in up to six parishes due to high water on the Atchafalaya. The district received 75 percent federal reimbursement for those temporary closures that cost $11 million in 2011and $7 million in 2016, Matte said. But “the simple solution” to prevent the future costs of installing temporary structures is to build a permanent floodgate, Matte said. “We’re stepping in to address this issue, but it’s really an issue that’s part of and a significant component of the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project,” Matte said.
Published by Daily Review 08/27/18