Temporary flood measures in West Terrebonne will remain in place throughout Hurricane Season 2019, regardless of whether the Morganza Spillway is opened or not.
During a tour of the Chacahoula Basin Sunday, Parish President Gordon Dove said he plans to leave sheet piling and other protective measures in place, to prevent backwater flooding in West Terrebonne.
“There is no question that the barge in Bayou Chene is working. However, Terrebonne Parish started fighting backwater flooding in January, long before the barge was sunk,” Dove said. “Nonetheless, I plan to leave what we started and built, in place, throughout Hurricane Season in 2019. With or without the spillway opening, we are on-guard.”
Dove said he is still monitoring the Mississippi River Flood Stage, as well as the level of the Mississippi River in Simmesport, where the Mississippi meets the Red and Atchafalaya Rivers.
Last Thursday, Ricky Boyett, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, issued a press release which stated that based on the current forecast, the Corps will not operate the Morganza Floodway on June 9 and they do not have an expected operating date.
However, future weather events could impact Mississippi River levels and the Corps will continue to monitor the forecast daily as conditions can change. Operation of the structure will be a consideration until the Mississippi River crests and begins to fall.
The expected crest at Morganza is on or about June 15, but it will then remain high for two weeks or more. The Army Corps of Engineers only intends to operate the structure when needed as to not put additional water into the Atchafalaya Basin. One of the reasons for the postponement in recent weeks is flooding and levee failures in Arkansas, which kept water levels lower locally than people expected.
Backwater flooding has been a nuisance for West Terrebonne Parish, for years, however, more problematic in 1973, and threatening in 2011 and 2016, due to the snow melt across the country.
The big issue is that almost 40 percent of the Mississippi River flows into the Atchafalaya River every day. The Atchafalaya flows backwards into Bayou Chene and then Bayou Tabor, once it leaves Morgan City.
“The middle of Bayou Chene is the dividing line between Terrebonne and St. Mary Parish. East of Bayou Chene is Bayou Tabor which is all Terrebonne,” Dove said.
The parish president said the parish will continue pumping out 500 million gallons of water from the Chacahoula Basin, until its level reaches 1.4 feet. Currently, he said the basin is sitting at 2.4 feet.
Morgan City Mayor Frank Grizzaffi said Sunday, the Atchafalaya River is currently at 8.1 feet in Morgan City, and that the barge is apparently “doing 100 percent of its job”, in preventing backwater flooding.
Dove noted that in addition to the barge and sheet piling, members of the National Guard, along with the Gibson and Bayou Black Fire Departments, installed 13,000 linear feet of Tiger boom, that is acting as temporary levees for Bayou Black and other parts of Gibson.
Currently, Dove said the parish is also amidst construction of two $14.6 million pump station projects - the Hanson and Elliot flood control measures.
“Once these two are in placeand are working, we will not have to pump water out of the basin like we have been. Both of these projects are in motion, and they are both funded,” he said. “Needless to say, until then, we are still in a safe position.” •