$20M dredging of Bayou Lafourche to start in 2014

THIBODAUX, La. (AP) — Work on a second phase of dredging Bayou Lafourche could begin within a year.

The Daily Comet reported (http://bit.ly/15N3giK) the $20 million project is designed as part of an effort to reintroduce Mississippi River water into the bayou and increase its flow.

Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District chairman Hugh Caffery said the dredging work is important to ensure the bayou remains a usable source of fresh drinking water.

District executive director Ben Malbrough said the dredging is needed at the bridge over the bayou at Spur 70 and on a stretch of the waterway extending to the Louisiana Highway 70 bridge.

"Without dredging the bayou deeper and wider, we could not put the amount of water we need into the bayou without flooding the adjacent land," Malbrough said.

Recommendations for the new project have to be approved by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

In 2011, the district completed a $20 million dredging that opened nearly six miles of the bayou between Donaldsonville and Belle Rose.

Money for the project comes from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program, which sends revenue from offshore energy production back to the state for restoration projects. The program requires the work to be completed by December 2016.

"It's an aggressive timeline, but we're very optimistic we can get the job done," Malbrough said.

The design for the new project should be complete next summer, Malbrough said.

"We're hoping to go out to bid for construction in September 2014," he said.

Malbrough said the district is looking for money to continue the project as far as possible south along he bayou.

The district is also trying to identify disposal locations for the expected 500,000 to 700,000 cubic yards of material dredged from the bayou.

Bayou Lafourche was once a free-flowing arm of the Mississippi, receiving up 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 to satisfy drinking water demands of communities to the south.

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