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Workers drive steel sheet pilings Thursday afternoon near the Cajun Coast welcome center as part of the Morgan City Levee Improvements Project. The goal of the project is to raise and improve the city’s levees so they can be certified for 100-year storm surge protection and prevent large increases in flood insurance premiums. (The Daily Review/Zachary Fitzgerald)

Morgan City levee work progresses near visitors center

Work continues to progress on the Morgan City Levee Improvements Project. Workers are driving steel pilings near the Cajun Coast welcome center by U.S. 90 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Officials discussed the project during Thursday’s St. Mary Levee District meeting.

St. Mary Parish Consolidated Gravity Drainage District 2 is in charge of the $18 million Morgan City Levee Improvements Project, excluding a section of levees in Siracusaville, to raise and improve the city’s levee system.

Project leaders say the ultimate goal is to certify the levees for 100-year storm surge protection and thus prevent property owners from seeing enormous flood insurance premium increases. Levees are being raised anywhere from a few inches to several feet in different spots.

Officials expect work to finish in 2018 on the phases of the project that have begun construction, while a couple of other phases will likely continue beyond 2018, St. Mary Levee District Executive Director Tim Matte said.

Once the entire project is complete, the levee district will take control of the maintenance of the levees.

Parish government is managing the Siracusaville segment. Area leaders are still trying to come up with a plan to provide flood protection to Lakeside Subdivision, the final piece of the Morgan City levee project.

The Siracusaville part of the project was the first section to go to construction in May 2016. That portion is still under construction.

At the Thursday meeting, Project Engineer Kevin O’Gorman said work is progressing on the Lake End Park to Justa Street segment. Steel sheet pilings have been installed by the pump station on Victor II Boulevard, and work under U.S. 90 is nearing completion, he said.

Workers have begun driving sheet pilings as part of the levee project and are heading east near the Cajun Coast welcome center. The contractor expects to be past the visitors center within the next couple of weeks, O’Gorman said.

The center has been closed temporarily while the levee work takes place near the building.

In 2008, Morgan City government appealed its Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps issued through the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the new maps showed the levees were deficient for 100-year protection.

Since that time, property owners in the city have continued to use 1996 maps to determine flood insurance, while public officials work to get the levees certified. Eventually, when all of the levee work is finished, officials will be able to certify the levees and then FEMA can produce maps that reflect those certified levees.

In July, the levee board approved the district to spend $131,000 to design, survey and get a permit for a project to drive sheet piles along Justa Street to tie into the Morgan City Levee Improvements Project.

The total cost, including construction, of the Justa Street project is estimated at $1.3 million. Officials haven’t yet secured funds to construct that section. The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has requested state capital outlay funds for the Justa Street project, O’Gorman said.

Another portion of the Morgan City levee project entails raising a stretch of La. 70 by Lake End Park and tie it into the levee system. Officials recently awarded the contract, and work should begin in the coming weeks, he said.

Also included in the project is construction of a new pump station next to Lake End Park. The drainage district has the necessary funds to build the station after voters approved a proposal in March for the district to issue $6.25 million in bonds.

Construction hasn’t yet started on the pump station, but O’Gorman expects the station to be complete in the spring or summer 2019.

During the meeting, Matte said St. Mary Parish government is applying to try to get $10 million through the Restore Act to help fund the Bayou Chene Flood Control and Diversion Project that will protect six parishes from riverine flooding.

The levee district has also applied to try to get state capital outlay funds for the Bayou Chene project, Matte said. Other funding sources for the project include $50 million from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act and $20 million in additional Restore Act funds.

In other business, the commission

—Approved changes relating to permit documents.

—Declared a 1998 Dodge Ram pickup truck surplus to be sold at auction.

—Approved purchasing a Bush Hog mower for the city of Morgan City to use to cut grass on levees.

ST. MARY NOW & FRANKLIN BANNER-TRIBUNE

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Morgan City Daily Review
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Phone: 985-384-8370
Fax: 985-384-4255