An extended period of high water along the Atchafalaya River has caused a section of the river to fill with more than 10 feet of silt and prompted local officials to request $1.5 million from the state coastal board Wednesday to pay for cleaning it out.
“Until this plug (of sediment) is removed, the water is going to stay high,” Raymond “Mac” Wade, executive director of the Port of Morgan City, told the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority board.
The high water in the fall and winter along the Red and Mississippi rivers prompted the closing of Bayou Chene with a barge structure to keep water from backing up into portions of six neighboring parishes.
That barge needs to be removed for navigation, but there’s a problem downstream. The water silt has decreased the depth of a section of the river about 8 miles south of Morgan City from 20 feet to about 9.5 feet.
If the barge is removed without the river being cleared out, communities in St. Mary, Terrebonne, Lafourche, Assumption, Iberville and lower St. Martin parishes would have to deal with high-water problems, Wade said.
Cleaning out the area would require removing between 450,000 to 500,000 cubic yards of material from the waterway.
“The Corps is telling me $1.5 million and they can get the plug out,” he said, referring to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The levee district also has concerns because the elevated water levels are up against its levee protection.
“As this channel silts in, it has a direct impact on the inside of the basin,” said Will Tyson, executive director of the St. Mary Levee District.
Although it looked as though the authority was to take the matter under advisement, board member Steve Wilson told the commission that some kind of action should be taken if this is an emergency.
Fellow board member Windell Curole made a motion, which passed, for the issue to be given to Chairman Johnny Bradberry to investigate. Bradberry also was given the authority to allocate the $1.5 million if he finds it’s needed.
It’s not the only section of the river system in need of dredging.
There’s another section of waterway between Morgan City and Berwick that has about 1 million cubic yards of material that needs to be removed. It was cleaned out by the Corps in November, but the sediment already is back, Wade said. The coastal authority took no action on that problem.
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