Reaches K, L provide link to Lafourche ring levee

Montegut, Dulac, upper and lower Dularge residents seek much-needed protection
May 16, 2012
Hurricane system cheaper as do-it-yourself project
May 16, 2012
Montegut, Dulac, upper and lower Dularge residents seek much-needed protection
May 16, 2012
Hurricane system cheaper as do-it-yourself project
May 16, 2012

South Lafourche is sort of the model everyone seeks to replicate locally when it comes to hurricane protection.

With a massive, 48-mile-long ring levee protecting 33,400 acres of land, the lower Lafourche area is not a major part of the Morganza-to-the-Gulf system, as basically the entire community is already enclosed with protection.

But when the Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee connects to Lafourche’s ring levee in Cut Off, areas currently unprotected will reap the benefits and will be more likely to survive a storm’s waters.

“A multitude of areas would benefit from connecting Terrebonne and Lafourche in this project,” said Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District Executive Director Reggie Dupre. “We’d be providing many areas between Point-aux-Chenes and Cut Off with levee protection during a storm, which is a great thing.”

The purpose of this phase of the Morganza levee is simple. After forming a barrier south of Point-aux-Chenes, the earthen wall would jolt to the northeast and connect to Lafourche Parish’s pre-existing structure.

Having that wall in place would create resistance for storm surge in an area that currently has no buffer from incoming storm surge.

During past storms, water would flow north virtually unimpeded, which left both areas in Terrebonne and also Lafourche (outside the ring levee system) vulnerable to water in storm situations.

“It’s that way now,” said South Lafourche Levee District General Manager Windell Curole, while pointing at a map showing the unprotected areas. “If we can do something to help slow that, it’d be a big help.”

The levee will tie into Lafourche Parish at Cut Off, but citizens of Cut Off likely won’t even realize it, as they are protected by the ring levee system.

Curole and Dupre agree that the biggest benefits will come to central and north Lafourche, as well as Terrebonne Parish.

“The biggest benefit, I think, is the Larose, Lockport and even as far as Raceland areas in Lafourche Parish,” Dupre said. “And then Terrebonne Parish has a tremendous benefit, because even after we close the HNC near Dulac and we close Lake Boudreaux from filling up, we still have the potential of backwater flooding filling the Intracoastal Waterway from the Lafourche Parish side. … There’s a lot of areas that have benefits in this.”

“Montegut, Grand Bois, Bourg – those are areas that will all see the benefits,” Curole added. “The water could even make the turn and go all the way up to threaten Houma and flood the whole system. You have to remember, New Orleans flooded just because of two small openings in those walls. They and north Lafourche are where you’ll see the biggest benefits.”

In addition to flood protection, Curole said he has bigger plans for the levee tie-in project.

The South Lafourche native said once the new wall is in place, less salt water will enter marshes, which he believes will allow them to grow healthier in the future.

Curole also hopes to build environmental control structures in the future to try and funnel fresh water from the Intracoastal into the area, which would also help feed the marsh.

“If you stop the saltwater, the vegetation can hang on longer,” Curole said. “It’s called comprehensive hurricane protection. We try to look out for the marshes and the environment and the fisheries. Because that’s why we’re here. For our communities in south Louisiana, it’s always been about doing both – protecting the people and the environment. … It’s not a game to us when we say we’re trying to maintain this. We like to hunt and fish because that’s who we are. … The more fresh water we can get into here, the better. The freshier your marsh is, the more stable it becomes.”

Like almost all Morganza-related projects, funding for the full completion of the project is hard to come by.

Currently, the state has just $8 million of CDBG dollars to work on this project, which comprises reaches K and L in the Morganza.

But because the project’s purpose is to close a gaping gap in protection, the levee officials have decided to do what they can to get the ball rolling.

Curole said the $8 million won’t allow the workers to move pipelines, nor build a lock system within the project – both things that will be done when the project is fully completed.

But for now, anything is better than nothing.

“We can’t close this entire gap, but what we can do is get the beginnings of a continuous levee,” Curole said. “This is going to ratchet down the openings. This isn’t going to stop a storm surge, but it could slow it down. And when you playing the hurricane game, all you’re really doing is hanging on until the wind changes. So if you can slow it down long enough, you can get some benefits – they’ll just be minimal until all of the gaps are closed.”

“But like Windell always says, any protection is better than air,” Dupre added.