- Associated Press - Sunday, June 8, 2014

HOUMA, La. (AP) - Design is once more underway for the most expensive public works project in Terrebonne Parish history.

The Houma Navigation Canal lock, expected to cost more than $300 million, is the lynchpin of the parish’s best hopes for slowing wetlands loss, The Courier reported (https://bit.ly/1o00nJJ ).

The lock’s two gates will let boats travel through a narrow passage on the waterway between bayous Grand Caillou (ky-YOU) and Dularge (du-LARZH). It will be just above the recently installed Bubba Dove Floodgate south of Dulac (du-LAK).

The lock complex will tie into continuing levee construction and will include a barge gate that would occasionally open to let large vessels pass.

Louisiana’s coastal restoration authority has committed $50 million to engineer the lock over the next three years.

As the centerpiece of the Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee, the lock was being designed before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reworked the levee network’s standards after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, calling for a more robust system.

Louisiana’s coastal restoration authority has committed $50 million to engineer the lock over the next three years. All but about $10 million of that originates from criminal fines tied to the BP oil spill. The final cost is not yet certain.

State planners have recently been preparing the structure’s overall design, narrowing options from the Corps of Engineers’ original $500 million design.

The project shows how state and local agencies will be able to drive down the projected $10 billion Morganza-to-the-Gulf system below projected costs, bringing the full project closer to feasibility, Terrebonne Levee District Director Reggie Dupre said.

The project is expected to take seven to 10 years to engineer and build. It will work closely with state and local plans to flush more freshwater from the Atchafalaya River via the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway into withering marshes in central Terrebonne Parish.

The marshes are falling apart because “we do not have sediment, and we don’t have the opportunity to use fresh water,” said Jerome Zeringue, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority chairman and a Houma native.

Part of the project’s aim is to stop storm surge that could blitz Houma via the canal. Currently the $48 million Bubba Dove floodgate, installed last year, serves that purpose. But it is open most of the time, allowing salty water free passage up the canal.

“Under normal conditions, when tides are coming in and south winds are coming in, a large volume of salt water travels up the canal,” explained Terrebonne’s Coastal Zone Director Nic Matherne. “It is not a solid canal, there are multiple cuts that feed into the marshes that have slowly deteriorated because of saltwater intrusion.”

The state is planning a project to divert freshwater from the Atchafalaya into Terrebonne’s marshes.


Information from: The Courier, https://www.houmatoday.com

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