Port of Morgan City leaders say they are relieved to have a roughly one-mile section of the Atchafalaya River dredged and back open to vessel traffic. They are now focusing on a dredge demonstration downriver that they hope will allow officials to keep a 12-mile stretch of the waterway open year-round. Emergency dredging in the Atchafalaya River to remove a 6,000-foot-long plug of sand is complete, officials said during Monday’s Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District Commission meeting. The section was dredged to 22 feet deep and 250 feet wide. Dredging the sand plug, located about 10 miles south of Morgan City between Shell Island and Crewboat Cut, took 24 days and finished June 5, Port Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said. The spot had just 9.5 feet of water depth before being dredged. That much silt was terrible for the area, Wade said. Floodwaters from upriver caused sediment to build up in that section, which has never had shoaling issues before, Wade said. Dredging the plug proved doubly beneficial as the 500,000 cubic yards of sand was also used to create an island made up of the fertile soil on the west side of the river, Wade said. The region desperately needs land creation. Wade hopes the island will divert water to the side, help scour the river and create additional water flow to keep the sediment in suspension. Port of Morgan City leaders used $1.5 million of its annually allocated dredging funds from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the plug. The port had to take that money away from the port’s dredge demonstration in the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel, located roughly 20 miles south of Morgan City. Three days of work have been completed on the 69-day demonstration, said Tim Connell, the Corps of Engineers’ Atchafalaya region manager. “The early, early results are looking pretty good,” Wade said. The goal of the demonstration is to find a way to keep the 20-mile-long Bar Channel dredged to its authorized 20-foot depth year round. Officials have $3.8 million available to use for the project. Keeping the Bar Channel dredged to an adequate depth will help “any and everyone who uses the waterways,” Wade said. Fluff, or fluid mud, accumulates in the channel, making navigating the waterway difficult for vessels, and port officials want to keep that mud in suspension. “We’re going to expend all the money on this demo that we have left, every penny,” Wade said. Port leaders are using a hopperdredge for demonstration to suck up the sediment with vacuum cleaner-type arms and discharge it off the sides of the vessel, he said. Last week, port officials surveyed the Bar Channel and discovered that ships had about 10 feet of water to travel through. Officials are currently dredging a 3-mile stretch in the Bar Channel, but plan to dredge a total of 12 miles that experience silting problems in the channel. “Hopefully, we’re going to collect some data from that that’s going to be very beneficial to the future progress of how we maintain this channel on the reduced budget that we have,” Connell said. The cutter-head dredge that dredged the sand plug in the river is also being used to dredge other parts of the river that are usually dredged in the late fall. High water this winter caused those areas to silt in more quickly than normal, Wade said. Workers have finished dredging Twenty Grand Point and are now at Tidewater Point, Connell said. The dredge will then move to Berwick Bay, where it will work for two months, before moving to the Berwick locks, Connell said. Berwick Bay has spots that have less than a 4- foot water depth, though the bay is authorized to be 12 feet deep, Wade said. In other business, the commission appointed Duane Lodrigue as commission president and Gary Duhon as vice president. Approved a letter of no objection from Perennial Environmental Services on behalf of Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC regarding the Bayou Bridge Pipeline Project. Approved an audit engagement letter from Darnell, Sikes, Gardes and Frederick for three years at a cost of up to $18,000. Approved a proposal from GHD Services to provide engineering support and analysis for the Bar Channel dredge demonstration project.
Published by Daily Review 06/14/16