MORGAN CITY, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana will begin construction on the Bayou Chene floodgate “before you know it,” according to state drainage experts who say the state will start taking bids on the project this year.
The project will mitigate flooding in St. Mary, Iberville, Assumption, Lafourche, Terrebonne, and Iberia parishes. It found about $80 million in coastal trust fund money, paid for by a revenue-sharing agreement between gulf states and offshore drilling companies called the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act.
“The extra protection this project affords is going to allow residents and business owners to breathe a little bit easier,” Governor John Bel Edwards said Wednesday, Mar. 27 when he formally announced the funding in Morgan City. “This goes beyond St. Mary Parish, across the entire watershed.”
During times of unusually high water, including in 2016, the state sinks a barge beneath the water to act as a temporary floodgate. Locals say the impact is almost immediate.
“Probably another another foot to 18 inches lower,” Stephensville resident, Elwood Scully, said. “When that water and floods come, it brings anxiety in the community. It’s a catastrophe with everybody.”
The flooding primarily comes when the Atchafalaya Basin is high. Instead of draining into the Gulf, Bayou Chene sucks the water back toward houses in the Morgan City area. Residents say they stack sandbags in front of their homes when the basin is high to keep water out. In some areas, they’ve even elevated their yards to create small levees. Several roads in Stephensville were closed or had high water warning signage posted.
Edwards says the temporary relief the sunken barge brought in 1973, 2011, and 2016 offered evidence a permanent project could work.