Kelly gives parish river flooding update
During this year's high water event the St. Mary Levee District completed 37 projects throughout the parish.
Allen Kelly, executive director for SMLD, explained the organization's role in emergency preparation and support to the St. Mary Industrial Group in Morgan City on Monday and the Franklin rotary Club on Tuesday.
In Baldwin, SMLD aided the town with supplies, Kelly said. In Franklin, there were three neighborhoods at risk due to backwater flooding on the Bayou Teche.
SMLD obtained tiger tubes and a donated product from a company in Sweden.``It was about 500 linear feet ... Thankfully we didn't test it so they don't know if it works or not. It's less labor intensive than the Hesco baskets,'' Kelly said.
Also, he said, along the Charenton Canal in August ``we actually put in some Hesco (flood protection) baskets and then, due to new construction in the area, they were removed. This year we returned and replaced the ones that moved. We put them in a new configuration.''
Yellow Bayou was closed for backwater flooding protection. The Hanson Canal was closed on two locations. One location was to prevent backwater flooding and the second location was to prevent river flooding.
Franklin Canal also was closed with sheet piles, he said.
``This is something that has been an ongoing issue with the Franklin area. The Franklin Canal has a permanent structure funded with a projection of October of this year to start (construction),'' Kelly said.
Work to remove a 40-foot section of the temporary structure for vessel traffic is set to begin Thursday, he added. The structure itself, located a little north of the permanent structure site, will be able to be closed quickly if need be for hurricane surge protection.
``In Bayou Teche, there were concerns that the locks at Charenton and Calumet weren't high enough. The (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers came in and put these steel plates to bring the height up and also the sandbags to bring it to 20 foot,'' Kelly said.
In the Patterson area, sandbags were put on the east side of the Possum Bayou Pump Station by the Army Corps of Engineers.
At Wilson's Landing near the boat launch, the Army Corps of Engineers put a line of sandbags.
``These are 3,000-pound sandbags wrapped in Visqueen that become a water barrier,'' Kelly said.
On Cotten Road, rip-rap was used to shore the area. The Army Corps of Engineers is visiting each levee area twice a day.
About two weeks before the high-water event was announced, SMLD surveyed Amelia in case a high-water event was to occur.
``Amelia would probably be one of the most high risk areas. We looked at where they would need assistance ... getting across property lines and making sure homeowners and commercial business owners were on the same page,'' Kelly said.
Amelia's potato levees were increased by three feet, making them about 5.5 to 6 feet. The threat of backwater flooding for Amelia was projected to be about 5 feet.
``In the areas where we couldn't put in increased levee systems, Hesco baskets and sandbags were placed. You've got to really appreciate the work that the National Guard did,'' Kelly said.
Another SMLD project was to erect a barge in Bayou Chene. In order for this to work, SMLD had to complete two subprojects, one at Avoca Island and the other at the Tabor Canal.
``At Avoca Island we increased the levees all around and tied them into the main structure that was already there. Avoca turned into an engineering nightmare because the water started coming up a lot quicker ... They took soil material and moved it from one side to another. This levee was up and running and the water was starting to take its toll,'' Kelly said.
At the Tabor Canal 3,000 to 4,000 pound sandbags were placed to prevent water from flowing north of the Bayou Chene structure.
``It was a slow tedious process,'' Kelly said.
Without the success of these subprojects, water would have eventually made it back into Bayou Chene.
There was more to it than just placing a barge in Bayou Chene.
``There were dredging operations that had to be done to prepare for the barge. There were three crews working sheetpile 24 hours a day. The Corps of Engineers provided 24,000 tons of rock to the project. It was a very long list of firms and individuals that volunteered to come in and do whatever needed to be done to make this project that was not only done expediently but to a very high standard. And we can be very proud of all the work that happened here,'' Kelly said.
The rock was used to reinforce the levees. SMLD hopes this will stay until a permanent structure is approved, funded and placed.
``The average amount of water held back through the structure was anywhere from 2.2 to 2.8 feet. We more than doubled - almost tripled - the expectations of the system. We were very, very fortunate that this is something that happened like it did,'' Kelly said.
The barge in Bayou Chene not only benefited St. Mary Parish, it also benefited Terrebonne, Assumption, Iberville and St. Martin parishes.
``We know backwater flooding has a lot of ramifications besides what happens here locally. When you look at the flow of hydrology ... we didn't just help ourselves, we helped our neighbors,'' Kelly said.
The estimated cost of the Bayou Chene project is about $6 million. The state has approved $500,000. SMLD is hoping FEMA will provide 75 percent of the funding. SMLD will then look to the state, St. Mary Parish and other benefiting governments for the remaining 25 percent of funding, he said.