Temporary barge floodgate planned in south Louisiana
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana is working on plans to sink a barge as a temporary floodgate in a bayou if the Morganza Spillway is opened, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday.
The barge would be sunk in Bayou Chene south of Morgan City to protect St. Mary, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Martin, Assumption and Iberville parishes from backwater flooding.
“While the final decision to operate the Morganza rests with the Corps of Engineers, we feel that its operation is almost certain, which is why we are leaning forward to put this critical flood protection measure in place,” Edwards said in a news release.
The Corps’ decision is expected Tuesday, which is also when the barge installation would begin. Officials said installation would take seven days, but it would take up to two weeks before water coming down the Atchafalaya Basin reached Morgan City.
“To be clear, the barge floodgate on Bayou Chene will be in place by the time the spillway is opened,” said Chip Kline, chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. He said his agency would foot the whole bill.
The Morganza Floodway’s only previous openings were in 1973 and 2011. A barge was sunk in the bayou in 2011; Morgan City’s mayor at the time said it stopped more than 3 feet (1 meter) of water. The tactic also was used during floods in 2016.
The 2011 floods came at a time when the Atchafalaya Basin was drier than normal, so flooding was less than expected. This year, Edwards noted Thursday, rains have saturated the ground.
Edwards said in March that the state will spend $80 million on a permanent barge gate on Bayou Chene. Construction hasn’t begun. Its target operation date is summer of 2021.