Letter: Name Bayou Chene flood structure after local leader
It is great for our area that a permanent control structure is finally becoming a reality to protect our communities from backwater flooding. The control structure at Bayou Chene is long overdue, and we should all appreciate the efforts of those who are making it a reality.
We should also know and remember the origin of the structure.
The great flood of 1973 was imminent. The threat to Morgan City and neighboring communities was real. The Corps of Engineers began working on the levee system at Morgan City. This included raising the sea wall on Front Street by constructing wooden mud boxes on top of the existing concrete wall to increase the height of that system. The idea was to protect this area from flood waters of the Atchafalaya and Mississippi rivers. Little attention was given to flood water which would come from the south. Morgan City had minimal levee protection from backwater intrusion through bayous and Lake Palourde; Amelia, Stephensville and other communities had none, even though flooding was a constant threat.
As the threat of inundation continued, one man proposed a solution to the backwater threat: Dr. C.R. Brownell, who was the mayor of Morgan City. Having been on the waters of this area all of his life, he understood that water from the Atchafalaya circled around and found its way into Bayous Chene and Boeuf, and Lake Palourde, and understood the flood threat due to backwater.
He proposed to at least partially block the flood water by sinking a barge in Bayou Chene to block it from coming to populated areas. He had major opposition from the Corps of Engineers and some of the surrounding parishes. Public hearings were held; meetings in surrounding areas were held; discussions with the Corps of Engineers were a daily occurrence. The Corps agreed that it would study the proposal, which would not help the imminent flood threat.
He decided to take action and he did. He had a barge sunk where he knew it would work. And it did.
Since that time, on several different flood threat occasions, governmental authorities have followed Dr. Brownell’s lead, and it has worked. So well has it worked, and at significant expense each time, that the permanent structure is being built at approximately the same location as Dr. Brownell’s choice.
Because of his knowledge, leadership and determination in protecting our area communities, I propose that the new permanent structure be dedicated to his honor and memory and bear his name as the Dr. C.R. Brownell Bayou Chene Control Structure.
Edward M. Leonard Jr.