Levee commissioners fund flood payments

The St. Mary Parish Levee District will borrow $750,000 from the St. Mary Parish Government to help pay its flood fighting expenditures.

The board agreed on Thursday to allow Levee District President Bill Hidalgo to enter into a cooperative endeavor with the parish to borrow the money for 60 days.

The loan will be paid off as soon as the district receives Federal Emergency Management Agency Funds.

Using the loan, the district will pay off approximately $1.37 million in flood fighting expenditures.

During Thursday’s meeting, commissioners agreed they would continue paying the remaining $113,331 in invoices through Oct. 13 if FEMA funds become available.

Nicole Cutforth, a project manager at Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure Group, said that the levee district is in line for $697,000 in flood fighting funds from FEMA that should be received soon after an emergency bill was passed to fund FEMA for the rest of this fiscal year. She said full funding for FEMA for the next fiscal year should be approved soon.

Also during Thursday’s meeting, the district authorized the engagement of Foley and Judell of New Orleans for the approval of the issuance of up to $2.5 million in bonds to help the levee district.

Bond counsel Jason Akers said that if the bonds are approved on the morning of Nov. 17, the bonds could be issued as soon as that afternoon. The levee district will draw from these monies as needed, and Akers is trying to arrange them where interest only would accrue when the levee district draws monies.

If these bonds are approved, the district will have borrowed up to $8.25 million to help it with its operations and flood fighting expenditures.

The district already has been loaned $2.5 million from the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and another $2.5 million to help it with operations in future years.

Of the CPRA loan, the district must pay back 75 percent, which it plans to do using FEMA monies.

Also during Thursday’s meeting, the commission approved a change order with Low Land Construction Co. for the Bayou Chene Emergency Closure Removal and Restoration project, increasing it by $533,541 to roughly $2.45 million.

The largest item in the change order is the cleaning of the barge that was sunk in Bayou Chene, which is projected to cost $267,000.

“This will be, to the best of our knowledge, the last of the Bayou Chene expenses except if there’s some damage to the McDermott barge that’s got to be repaired, but we won’t find that until it’s cleaned, and a survey is done and they accept it,” Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo said as soon as the U.S. Coast Guard places aides to navigation on the waterway, that normal operations on the waterway may resume.

“Basically, all the work has been done now,” Hidalgo said.

As of now, traffic on the Chene is only open during daylight hours. Anyone who needs to pass through should call the levee district at 380-5500.

St. Mary Parish President Paul Naquin also announced during Thursday’s meeting that after 17 months, the Charenton Navigation Canal now is open to normal traffic. The channel had been obstructed by a rig that overturned in the spring of 2010 that now is being salvaged.

Also during Thursday’s meeting, the board put off discussion on the assignment of oil, gas and mineral leases previously held by the Atchafalaya Basin Levee District until the levee district meets in October.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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Phone: 985-384-8370
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