THIBODAUX — A $20 million project to dredge Bayou Lafourche and improve the flow of the waterway is moving ahead.
The Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District is hiring the engineering firm T. Baker Smith to determine which portion of the bayou is in most critical need of dredging.
District Executive Director Ben Malbrough said officials are considering continuing the previous dredging project at Belle Rose south to La. 70 or dredging the bayou from Thibodaux northward.
“The bayou is our source of local drinking water, and the more constricted it is, the more that source is threatened,” said district Chairman Hugh Caffery.
The project will be funded through the Coastal Impact Assistance Program, which sends revenue from offshore energy production back to the state for restoration projects.
After the dredging site is chosen, Caffery said, the district will consult with the state. Work could begin within a year, Malbrough said.
Bayou Lafourche was once a free-flowing arm of the Mississippi River, receiving 10 percent to 20 percent of the river’s flow. In 1904, the bayou was dammed at Donaldsonville to control river flooding.
A pump station was added in the 1940s to reintroduce fresh water and satisfy demand for drinking water.
The bayou provides drinking water to more than 300,000 people in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Assumption parishes.