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Port officials expect the projected 8-foot crest in the Atchafalaya River to exacerbate the buildup of sediment in the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel, Port of Morgan City Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said. The Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District Commission met Monday. National Weather Service forecasters expect the river to crest March 24 near 8 feet in Morgan City. As of this morning, the river was at 5.8 feet in Morgan City near the 6-foot flood stage. The forecast shows the river reaching 7.2 feet Saturday. The temporary flood protection structure is still in place on Bayou Chene and will hold back almost 2 feet high of water if the river reaches 8 feet, Wade said. There hasn’t been any discussion about opening the Morganza Spillway because the Mississippi River levels aren’t high enough, Port Economic Development Manager Cindy Cutrera said. “We’re getting all of this water from the Red River,” Cutrera said. More high water means more sediment buildup in the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel, Wade said. The channel is congressionally authorized to be dredged to 20 feet deep, but the Corps only has funds to dredge a couple of months a year. “We’ve already got a bad problem. It’s just going to make it worse,” Wade said. Some vessels, including import-export ships, cannot travel to the Port of Morgan City right now due to the sediment buildup. The port has about $5.6 million left in dredging funds for the next six months that will all go toward a dredging demonstration using a self-propelled hopper dredge, Wade said.

The Corps’ dredge demonstration is scheduled to start in late May, said Tim Connell, the Corps’ Atchafalaya region manager. Port officials hope to find a dredging alternative that will keep the Bar Channel to a 20- foot depth year round. Survey crews were going out today to see how much sediment buildup there is in the Bar Channel, Connell said. Due to the anticipated high water, Berwick closed floodgates on First and Pacific streets March 11. Town officials closed the Gus Street gate Monday and planned to close gates on Mound Street, Oregon Street and California Street today. Morgan City officials are also preparing to begin closing floodgates and will send out notifications before closing the gates, City Chief Administrative Officer Marc Folse said in an email Monday. During Monday’s port meeting, the commission approved a $92,580 bid by Encos Inc. for maintenance on the port’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration real-time weather stations in the river. The weather stations are essential to giving port officials the survey data they need for the dredging demonstration, Wade said. Wade also thanked state Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, for fighting against a proposal in House Bill 61 during the special legislative session to remove sales tax exemptions on shipbuilders for construction of vessels over 50 tons. Allain and Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, were able to convince enough legislators to not impose the 4-cent sales tax on shipbuilders, Wade said. The exemptions for shipbuilders to HB 61 and HB 62, which was the one-cent sales tax increase, were approved in conference committees, Allain’s Legislative Assistant Laura Meadows said.

Published by Daily Review March 15, 2016


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