Final preparations are under way and plans are to open Bayou Chene on a limited basis Tuesday.
St. Mary Parish Levee District Executive Director Allen Kelly said this morning that surveys are being completed today to make sure there are no obstructions with rocks or other items that could pose a threat to navigation. He said levee district officials would know for sure this afternoon whether the waterway, which has been closed since May 12, will be reopened on a limited basis.
When it is opened initially, Kelly said that there will be no discriminating against vessels entering the waterway. However, he said the levee district doesn’t want anyone joyriding through the waterway or large barges passing, which could cause safety hazards for those working to remove the remnants of the structure that was installed in May near the waterway’s intersection with the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to prevent backwater flooding spurred by the bulging Atchafalaya River this spring.
“What we don’t want is just uncontrolled traffic back and forth all day long,” he said.
Those boats passing through will be escorted because a fender system, to protect both the structures left in place in case there is a future need to quickly install a temporary flood protection structure again, as well as the passing vessels, has not been installed yet.
“That’s one of the last things they’re going to do,” Kelly said of the system, which will be complete by the end of this month.
During Thursday’s levee board meeting, commissioners unanimously passed a resolution that with conditional approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the levee district can install the protection system, knowing the board could be forced to remove it at their own expense.
Kelly said this morning the levee district has not received conditional approval from the Corps to install the fender system.
“We feel it’s going to go fine, but we’re just waiting on the conditional go ahead,” he said.
However, there has been some movement on the permit for the project, which calls for installing the fender system as well as narrowing the once nearly 1,000-foot channel to 420 feet.
Kelly said this morning that the permit has been moved from the state Department of Natural Resource to the Corps.
He said the Chene will be opened for full-time traffic as soon as the fender system is installed and signs, lighting and other markings for the area are in place. Kelly was hopeful this work could be finished by the end of the month.
“We’re moving ahead as if everything will be approved,” he said.