Barge removal, flooding highlights of parish year
“Seventeen months, eight days and how many hours?”
That’s how long it was before St. Mary Parish Paul Naquin said he could breathe a sigh of relief over the long awaited removal of an overturned barge rig that hampered commercial navigation on the Charenton Canal from April 2010 until September this year.
The rig was being towed to a salvage yard on the canal when it toppled. In the process of attempting to have it uprighted, the salvage company, T. Moore Services, filed bankruptcy.
Naquin monitored the situation during the entire process and with U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry led discussions with various governmental agencies from the state level to the U.S. Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard.
The rig was sold at auction in August to LAD Services LLC of Morgan City. Extensive repairs were made on the rig before it could finally be towed away for salvage elsewhere.
Other notable events of 2011 in the parish included the spring flood fight conducted by the St. Mary Levee District and considered a success.
In Late May, Naquin reported to the council that the parish was flood-proof, thanks to a long list of people who worked tirelessly to help protect the area from high water released through the Morganza Spillway from the Mississippi River.
He said during the event he had flown over the spillways at Morganza and Bonnet Carre with top U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials.
“I’ve learned more about those systems than I ever wanted to know,” he said.
“Most of all I’d like to expressly thank the Levee District and its president (Bill Hidalgo) for the outstanding job they did,” Naquin said. “They set up a barge (structure in Bayou Chene) that would take a month and a half in eight days.”
He said the flood control structure prevented backwater flooding for as many as seven parishes.
“St. Mary Parish came together as a team, I never saw this before,” he said. He also thanked the mayors of all five municipalities for their assistance during the event.
Also, in western St. Mary, Naquin said the levee district closed Yellow Bayou and the Hanson and Franklin canals with sheet pile structures.
He added that work also was done to shore up the locks in Charenton, Patterson and Berwick.
When he wasn’t overseeing one waterway being unblocked and others dammed, Naquin was attending meetings as the new president of the Louisiana Police Jury Association and executive committee member of the National Association of Counties — all while successfully campaigning for election to his second term as parish president. Also, Chief Administrative Officer Henry “Bo” LaGrange was elected president of the Organization of Parish Administrative Officials
In the election, Naquin faced opposition from and defeated at-large Council Gary Duhon of Morgan City, who was prohibited from seeking return to that seat due to term limits.
In other October election results, there will be three new members on the council in January — Butch Metz representing District 1; Tim Tregle, District 7; and Sterling Fryou, District 8. Also leaving the council are Craig Mathews who lost reelection to Metz and Chuck Walters who did not run. Kevin Voisin, currently representing District 7, will move over to the at-large District 11 seat. Walters and Voisin served their two-term limit on their current seats.
Returning for their second terms of office will be Butch Middleton, District 2; David Hanagriff, District 3; Glen Hidalgo, District 4; Ken Singleton, District 5; Logan Fromenthal, District 6; Albert Foulcard, at-large District 9; and Steve Bierhorst, at-large District 10.
Naquin and the new council will take their oaths of office in a special ceremony on Monday, Jan. 9 at 4:30 p.m. in the council meeting room.
In other items of note, the parish has been allocated a $19.5 million community development block grant related to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike for flood protection and damage mitigation by the Louisiana Recovery Authority. The approved projects include:
—Reconstruction of Martin Luther King Street in Morgan City, $551,538, with contract award in mid-January.
—Reconstruction of Jolivette and Lebeau streets in Baldwin, $411,400.
—Drainage improvements that include culvert upgrades and addition of pumps in the areas of south Willow Street and Pecan Acres in Franklin, $1.2 million. Bids will be advertised in mid-2012.
—Replacement and flood proofing of the Atchafalaya River wharf in Berwick, $414,600.
—Flood protection projects that include floodgate and levee improvements on Yellow Bayou and Hanson Canal, $6.2 million; Yokely levee improvements, $4.5 million; Plantation pump station replacement and improvements in Bayou Vista, $782,500; and parishwide sewer lift station electrical retrofits and upgrades, $511,000.
—Patterson water plant upgrades, $366,500.
—Just over $2 million toward levee improvement projects in Morgan City.
—$2 million for owner-occupied low and moderate income housing rehab with an average of $15,000 to $40,000 per household. The first phase of the project is set to begin in January on about 45-50 units.
Completed this year were repairs at the Law Enforcement Center in Centerville.
The $1 million project was funded with surplus from refinancing the $3.7 million in jail construction bond. The bond will now be paid off five years early and provided the surplus for the improvements. Repayment of the new debt is $425,000 per year as compared to the former repayment rate of $525,000.
The project included upgrades to the fresh air intake system, installation of a new emergency generator and upgrades to the internal security system.
The council also has issued $6.8 million in bonds from the 1-cent sales tax dedicated to capital improvements on public buildings.
Buildings and projects on the list to be done in 2012 include:
—Blevins building in Franklin: exterior waterproofing and window repainting ($127,218) and modification and improvements to provide parish offices ($873,750).
—Courthouse: Extensive exterior work, $891,225; redesign of entry canopy, $215,525; window replacement, $563,394; elevator and elevator lobby upgrades, $681,525: parish office general improvements on the fifth floor, $116,500; general improvements on the third, fourth and sixth floors, $844,625; replacement and upgrades of HVAC air boxes above ceilings on the third, fourth and sixth floors, $699,000; and boiler replacement, $145,625.
—Whitney building at 201 Everett St. in Morgan City: re-roofing and waterproofing, $191,980.
—MC Senior Center at 4014 Chennault St.: replacement of metal roof and ceilings, $188,148.
—Kemper Williams Park: gatehouse improvements, $110,675.
—Animal Control: facility replacement, $495,125.
—Old Tiger Den building in Franklin renovations for office space, $116,500.
Other projects include those being funded by the Coastal Impact Assistance Program. CIAP provides federal funds to Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas producing states to mitigate the impacts of the industry.
The projects totaling almost $7M include the Point Chevreuil shoreline protection project, $1.9 million covering 4,250 feet of coast line around the point at the southern most tip of East Cote Blanche Bay. Permits pending; and the Deer Island Pass realignment, $2.7 million, which includes dredging a new navigation channel at the mouth of Deer Island Bayou to protect marsh land and reduce siltation at Atchafalaya Bay, is in design phase.
The other projects include the completed Burns Point shoreline project, $1.01 million for protection of the 8½-acre recreational vehicle park and campground at Bayou Sale Bay; the Thorguson-Berwick South Road project in progress, $1.6 million, to widen and overlay the road used as a main thoroughfare by the oil and gas industry.
CIAP monies are also partially funding the construction of a $1.68 million new industrial road in Morgan City between Second Street and Federal Avenue inside the seawall in an effort to divert industrial and commercial traffic away for residential neighborhoods. Funding for the project includes $335,000 in state and $525,000 in parish CIAP funds, and $820,000 in state capital outlay funds. Naquin said permits are in hand and right-of-way acquisitions are in progress are complete.
In other areas, the parish has been allocated hazard mitigation grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a result of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008. The grants require a 25 percent match by the local recipient.
Applications have been submitted to FEMA on the following projects:
—$1 million for wind retrofit projects of public buildings to protect from future damage. The grant will fund projects at the school board Central Office Complex in Centerville, Franklin and Morgan City fire departments, the Blevins building in Franklin and the Office of Emergency Preparedness’ hangar and warehouse at Harry P. Williams Memorial Airport.
—$250,000 for construction of “safe rooms” for staff at drainage pump stations in Amelia and Morgan City.
—$2.5 million for upgrade of pump stations in the Berwick, Amelia and Morgan City areas.
—$1.5 million for elevation of the North Bend, Gordy, Ellerslie and Todd pump stations all located off La. 317 south of Centerville.
Approved is $640,000 for elevation of critical equipment at the Courthouse in Franklin. The project, currently under design, includes relocating communication equipment to the first floor and floodproofing the main mechanical room, both located in the basement. Floodproofing will include building a 3- to 4-foot high floodwall on the rear of the Courthouse extending from the tunnel entries.
The parish has replaced one of the courthouse’s two chillers with one more energy efficient with a $400,000 energy efficient competitive grant from the Department of Natural Resources.
Boat landing improvement projects include:
—A $765,000 CDBG for fisheries infrastructure at Jesse Fontenot Memorial Boat Launch at the end of River Road in Berwick is starting and consists of installation of a large-vessel mooring facility with electrical hookups and sewerage disposal. This project is expected to be complete by the end of the first quarter of 2012.
—Pending Community Development Block Grants include construction of a floating dock at Joe C. Russo Memorial Boat Launch on the basin levee off of La. 70 north of Morgan City and for wharf improvements at the R.J. Marcel Memorial Boat Landing in Amelia. The projects are part of the Coastal Communities Fishery Recovery Program, which provided $400,000 for the projects.
Pending sewer installation projects at Bakertown, Websterville, St. Peter Street and Adeline are pending right-of-way acquisitions.
“We have had a busy year,” Naquin said. “I look forward to working with the new council in 2012 and continuing to move forward on positive aspects for the parish.”