Dredging takes place in the Crewboat Cut section of the Atchafalaya River during April


By ZACHARY FITZGERALD
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The money is there. Now Port of Morgan City leaders say that money will be put to use on multiple dredging projects in the coming months. They say these projects will help facilitate more waterway commerce. Roughly $50 million has been announced during the past year to be used for dredging waterways in the Morgan City area.

In mid-April, dredging began in the Crewboat Cut section of the Atchafalaya River.

Brice Civil Constructors, an Alaskan company, is building a special purpose dredge using an offshore support vessel with a drag arm to reduce the density of fluid mud, known as fluff, in the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel. Port leaders expect dredging of the bar channel to commence by June.

Dredging of Bayou Chene will probably start sometime during the summer, marking the first time that bayou has been dredged in about 10 years. That dredging project was made possible through supplemental funds the port received as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

“If everything goes according to plan, we hope to have this channel fully operational by the fall,” Port Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said. The port is taking the lead to get the Morgan City area recognized as a maritime support hub. That was a recommendation of the Urban Land Institute study, commissioned by local community group St. Mary Excel, to look for ways to diversify the area’s economy.

Having an adequately dredged channel helps fabrication yards and shipyards will bring back import-export ships, Wade said.

The river and bar channel will be dredged to 24 feet deep. Dredging to that depth will prolong an adequate water-way depth, because the waterways are congressionally authorized to be 20 feet deep.

Th
e port recently received $4.8 million through the Department of Transportation’s port priority program to improve the port’s railroad track and spurs. These funds will also be used to fill a ditch, thus providing more lay down area at the rail yard, and rehabilitate the port’s dock for the first time in 20 years.

“The reason for the rail improvements is because we’ve gotten a whole lot of inquiries and interested parties wanting to access rail at the port,” Port Economic Development Manager Cindy Cutrera said.

There’s a big interest from companies wanting to transport pipe to the port by water and then load the pipe onto rail cars, Wade said.

Port officials hope the port will get so much business that other facilities in the area have the opportunity to load shipments. Getting documentation that shows the accurate amount of tonnage passing through the port ensures that the port gets proper dredging funds, Cutrera said.

Due to the high water in the region, port officials anticipate Congress will approve another supplemental funding package to assist affected communities, and they hope to receive some of that money for local dredging.

The accumulation of sediment is worse this year than 2011 when the Atchafalaya River crested at over 10 feet, Wade said. Wade suspects the reason is that the area has seen high water since October or November 2018 without relief.

Wade called the shoaling this year in the Atchafalaya River the “worst we’ve ever had.” Berwick Bay had its best dredging project ever about six months ago, removing 1.8 million cubic yards of sand.

“It’s all filled back in and then some,” Wade said.

Port authorities have been working closely with the state’s congressional delegation, especially U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre, who’s pushing to get more dredging funds for the port.

“Our congressmen and our senators are very aware of our situation,” Wade said.

The port is requesting $1.25 million in state capital outlay funds for each of the next three years. If acquired, those funds would go toward the funds that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers now requires entities to contribute for dredging projects, Wade said.

Rice farmers and others in the import-export business have contacted port officials about wanting to ship goods through Morgan City. The port had multiple visits from import-export ships several years ago, but those trips stopped due to lack of depth in the local waterways.

Port of Morgan City leaders are sup-porting inclusion of a proposed sediment pipeline from Crewboat Cut to eastern Terrebonne Parish in the state’s 2023 coastal master plan, Cutrera said.

Officials are trying to determine a way to take dredged material from Berwick Bay and use it for beneficial use by Avoca LLC. Material dredged from Bayou Chene will be used by Continental Land & Fur along with Avoca. 

Lots of activity has been happening at the port’s Emergency Operations Center, too, on La. 182 with governmental training events and meetings. The U.S. Coast Guard has signed a contract with the port to relocate about 80 Coast Guard members from the David Drive office to the Emergency Operations Center.

Published by Daily Review April 26, 2019