Atchafalaya Basin's project plans updated


Numerous projects affecting the area are included in the Atchafalaya Basin Program’s draft 2013 annual plan.

Local leaders were treated to a preview of the plan during a public hearing Monday night as they were the only people present at the Morgan City Municipal Auditorium. No members of the public attended.

Of the estimated $10 million in projects proposed, 14 directly or partially affect this area.

Basin projects are divided into water quality projects and access projects.

Bathymetry Data in American Pass

A new water quality/management project proposed is the collection of bathymetry data in American Pass. Over many years and both high and low water events, the pass has begun to fill in as sediments built up naturally. The 2011 flood is likely to have deposited sediment in an area that was already very shallow. The data would help engineers determine necessary actions.

The data is essential to evaluating potential changes to the hydrology of the lower East Grand Lake Water Management Unit. American Pass is located west of Flat Lake, and the project was submitted by Parish President Paul Naquin. It is one of only two new water quality projects in the plan.

East Grand Lake Project

This project is a continuation from the fiscal year 2012 plan when it was partially funded for engineering and construction. Engineering and design are set to begin soon. Partial construction funding is in the 2013 plan as well. The project is designed to realign water flow patterns and strategically redirect sediment in the project area.

This funding cycle begins with the upper reaches of the project, while additional funding cycles will be necessary to implement the project in western and lower regions. The upper region takes in the area south of Bayou Sorrel to Old River and east of Grand Lake to Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and covers an estimated 72,143 acres.

The success of the project hinges on the implementation of a suite of construction projects that complement each other in order to keep the water moving from north to south throughout the region. Benefits that will be realized are therefore dependent on the amount of funding that is provided to construct the features that are proposed. Locations may have to be modified based on landowner and access issues and adaptive management strategies.

Big Bayou Pigeon

Sediment has built up along nearly seven miles of the main channel of Big Bayou Pigeon in Iberia Parish, reducing water flow and impairing navigation. The recommendation is to dredge the bayou to no more than the width of the channel at low or intermediate river stage and only as far downstream as needed to provide for small boat passage at low water. The bottom contour will mimic natural slopes and depth will provide three feet of access at low river stage.

Sediment reduction will be achieved with a mid-channel dug deeper than the rest of the bayou, and the sediment trap is expected to have a five-year life expectancy. Spoil disposal options must be in a manner that is beneficial to the surrounding area.

This project area is in the Upper Belle River Water Management Unit.

In the 2012 plan, this project was approved for design and engineering funding. Action is being taken to identify landowners and secure agreements. Contracting for engineering services will begin once land rights issues are resolved. The project is up for construction funding in the 2013 plan.

Little Bayou Pigeon

Silt has built up in Little Bayou Pigeon from the crossover to Grand Lake in the Upper Belle River Water Management Unit in Iberia and St. Martin parishes. The project involves clearing debris and vegetation from Little Bayou Pigeon and dredging, if necessary, to provide access to the lake.

In the 2012 plan, this project was approved for design and engineering funding. Action is being taken to identify landowners and secure agreements. Contracting for engineering services will begin once land rights issues are resolved. The project is up for construction funding in the 2013 plan.

Wilson's Landing Boat Launch

Upgrades to this boat launch west of Patterson were proposed in the state master plan and approved in the 2011 annual basin plan but not funded due to the total level of funding available. Therefore, it is included as one of four new access projects in the 2013 plan.

Proposed renovations to this landing include bringing in fill material to raise the elevation of the present “low-water launch” so it can also function at higher river stages. In addition, the ramps may need to be extended further out into the water to facilitate safe launching at lower river stages. Improvements to the parking area and lighting also are proposed.

Other projects and initiatives proposed for funding that don’t fit neatly into either of the other categories include:

—Atchafalaya Basin Master Plan update: The original plan was published by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and the Atchafalaya Basin Advisor Committee in 1998. It expected that after 15 years the plan would be evaluated, revised and a new 15-year plan adopted.

—Lake End Parkway cabins: Includes the design and construction of cabins and related accessories at Lake End Parkway in Morgan City. Cabin design is complete and some construction funding was provided as part of the 2011 basin plan. The City of Morgan City and the Department of Natural Resources have signed a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement, and plans are awaiting approval prior to going out for construction bids. The number of cabins to be built will be dependent upon bid prices and the level of funding available.

—Stephensville Park: The ongoing project provides a recreation facility for visitors and residents in lower St. Martin Parish. Phase I is complete and included earth work, ball fields, a walking trail, parking area, playground, and a picnic shelter. Work remaining includes ball field lighting, concession stand, restroom, landscaping, bleachers, playground equipment, parking, tennis court and sewerage treatment. Additional funding for construction was provided in the 2011 basin plan and the recreation district currently is developing a project scope.

—Belle River Park: An ongoing project to provide a recreation facility for visitors and residents of lower St. Martin Parish. Work completed to date includes earth work and a walking trail. Work remaining includes a roadway, parking, drainage, trails, landscaping, playground equipment, lighting, pavilion, meeting hall, building utilities and sewer treatment. Design was funded through the Atchafalaya Basin Program and a Trails Grant. Design is under way for a meeting hall and restrooms. Construction was partially funded in the 2011 annual plan.

—Veterans Park: The ongoing project provides a recreation facility for visitors and residents of the Pierre Part area in Assumption Parish. Phase I and II are complete and include baseball fields, tennis courts, a concession stand, walking trail and playground. Work remaining includes additional landscaping and lighting for baseball fields, tennis courts, walking trail and parking lot. Also planned are bleachers, concession stand equipment, batting cages and sidewalk canopies, waterfront dock, spray water park, shuffleboard and volleyball court(s). Construction funding was provided in the 2011 basin plan and is being used for bleachers, concession equipment and other amenities.

—Morgan City Interpretive Center: This project would be a cooperative effort with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The concept is to design a building that would showcase the cultural aspects of the lower Atchafalaya along with other projects, both existing and proposed, that have been constructed by the Corps. The funding provided by the basin program would be used as matching funds for the development of the Engineering Design Report by the Corps.

Biking/paddling/hiking trails: Aims to increase accessibility to the basin’s wonders through these trails. Paths, trails and paddling areas are proposed for development throughout the basin in the 2012 plan. The Atchafalaya Basin Program will work with local government and other stakeholders to identify locations for these trails.

—Camp Atchafalaya: A project to construct a facility to provide the basin experience to physically challenged individuals. The project’s goal is to create a universally accessible environment for people with disabilities to connect with nature. It would be constructed in its entirety as a barrier-free and completely accessible park and would be devoid of any designation of handicap signage, areas and identification because the park and everything in it would be designed accordingly for access. The Office of State Parks has worked on the planning and design of this project with funding provided by the basin program, but has not been able to move forward for lack of funding. No word on location.

—Habitat restoration: The project provides for restoration through vegetative plantings in areas that are or were impacted by construction activities in the basin or areas where habitat improvements are needed.

—Primitive campgrounds: The Atchafalaya Basin Program staff is consulting with key stakeholders and local governments to identify specific sites for establishing primitive camping areas on state-owned land in the basin. Additional consultation with those entities and the State Lands Office will occur prior to firming up final plans. This project was partially funded in the 2011 basin plan and currently is in the planning stage.

Morgan City Mayor Tim Matte said that while he had no specific property or project in mind, the city would be interested in establishing or operating a primitive camping project and/or supporting the Atchafalaya Basin Program’s efforts to establish such a program in the area.

He also noted that he hoped the 2014 plan, which project nominations are now open for, takes into account the effects of the 2011 flood.

The mayor gave his support to the American Pass project spearheaded by Naquin, who likewise gave his support to Matte’s Lake End Parkway project.

Naquin said he was disappointed with the lack of public turnout at the meeting and warned that if that did not change at future meetings, the Morgan City leg of public hearings are likely to be moved to Plaquemine.

Incoming Parish Councilman Sterling Fryou, who works as a commercial fisherman, told program Director Steve Chustz that since the flood, Flat Lake is completely “stopped up.”

Chustz said there have been many who are looking at changing the discharge from the Old River Control Structure to utilize the natural flow of the river for coastal restoration, which would also aid areas like Flat Lake.

Rep. Karen Gaudet St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, agreed.

“Before the flooding, it was bad,” she said, referring to the silting. “Now (the flooding) just made it so much worse.”

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

Franklin Banner-Tribune
P.O. Box 566, Franklin, LA 70538
Phone: 337-828-3706
Fax: 337-828-2874

Morgan City Daily Review
P.O. Box 948, Morgan City, LA 70381
Phone: 985-384-8370
Fax: 985-384-4255

Follow Us