MORGAN CITY — After years of working its way through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ chain of command and numerous requests for more revisions to the project, the Corps’ Washington, D.C., headquarters has given final approval for the reauthorization of Crewboat Cut as the designated channel through the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf of Mexico.
Darrel Broussard, a Corps’ project manager, told the Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District during its monthly meeting that the document was approved Oct. 14.
“It’s not often in all these times of reduction and everything that we get to work on a study that actually saves money,” Broussard told commissioners of the project, which is expected to save the port millions of dollars because Crewboat Cut is nearly self sustaining, while Horseshoe Bend, the current authorized channel, silts up often.
Despite the good news, Broussard said that the port must find the money to armor 1.8 miles of property on the east bank immediately upstream of Crewboat Cut with rock as a result of erosion concerns by landowners along the waterway with the increase in traffic that will navigate it once it is opened.
The rock, estimated to cost approximately $5 million, will be funded by the federal government if the port can meet certain requirements outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency. Otherwise, the federal government will pay 75 percent of the costs and the port would be responsible for the remaining 25 percent.
However, finding the money will be key.
Broussard said whatever funding is available will determine how long it takes for the rock to be placed and Crewboat Cut to officially be opened for authorized travel.
He said there are no other monies currently available to do the work other than what’s in the Corps’ account for the port for Operations and Maintenance dredging.
Broussard said it is possible that the project could sit idle for a year or more because of a lack of funding available.
“Do we sacrifice placing rock or dredge the channel,” he said of the dilemma the port may face keeping its waterways navigable for sailouts, such as two that are planned in the upcoming year for Bollinger Shipyards.
New Orleans District Corps’ of Engineers representative Mike Lowe said the Corps’ will have to determine when the time comes to lay the rock whether a waterway needs to be dredged for a sailout instead.
The port’s Operations and Maintenance budget will fund mooring and survey work required in the design for the rock placement.
Port Executive Director Jerry Hoffpauir Lowe if he could just clip out the money for Horseshoe Bend and use it for the rocking of Crewboat Cut. Lowe said the money is used for more than just Horseshoe Bend, so it would be hard to separate the monies into just Horseshoe Bend’s portion.
Once the rock is installed and the channel is marked by the U.S. Coast Guard, it will be opened for navigation.
In addition to saving the port millions, Crewboat Cut is the quicker, more preferred route of local mariners to the Gulf of Mexico that also helps cut down their fuel costs.
As part of the redesignation, the port will sign updated assurance agreements that lay out the port’s responsibilities as well as the potential cost-share for the port.
With the authorization of Crewboat Cut as the authorized channel, a full Dredged Materials Management report will not be needed.
Instead, a preliminary assessment documenting such things as the availability of space to accommodate 20 years of maintenance dredging, will be utilized.
The preliminary assessment is being reviewed by the Corps’ technical divisions and will be sent to Col. Edward Fleming, commander of the Corps’ New Orleans District, once it is complete.
In other dredging matters, Sarah Nash of the Corps’ New Orleans District reported that the Corps’ is preparing to award a contract for a demonstration project to determine the effectiveness of agitation dredging at managing fluff in the Atchafalaya River’s Bar Channel.
“We are negotiating the contract right now to award that soon,” Nash said of the demonstration project, which could begin as soon as Wednesday, according to Nash’s report.
The project will entail dragging a beam measuring 50 feet long by 3 feet wide and weighing 35 tons across an area of the bar channel.
The goal is to keep fluff suspended and the channel navigable.
After the beam is dragged, surveys will be conducted daily for a week following the demonstration and then once per week for approximately three weeks.
The survey results will be compared with other surveys taken outside the demonstration area to determine the project’s effectiveness.
After multiple runs with the beam and subsequent surveys, the Corps’ will use the information gathered and what they observe in the field — as well as the time remaining on the contract — to determine their next course of action.
Dredging already is ongoing in the Bar Channel, which is expected to be complete this week.
Moffatt & Nichol, a Baton Rouge firm the port has retained to help with its agitation dredging problems, pitched the idea of using a beam. They will be working with the Corps’ on the project.
“Hopefully, we’ll report back next time (in a month) on what we’ve done rather than what we intend to do,” said Jonathan Hird of Moffatt & Nichol.
Like Crewboat Cut, if the agitation dredging project is successful, it is expected to save the port millions on dredging expenditures by keeping sediment suspended.