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Construction finishes on $80M Bayou Chene floodgate, built to protect several Louisiana parishes

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Kezia Setyawan
/
WWNO
Governor John Bel Edwards leads the ribbon cutting on the Bayou Chene Floodgate in Morgan City on Friday, April 29, 2022.

To protect southeast Louisiana parishes against the Atchafalaya River backwater flooding and intense storms during hurricane season, a 446-foot floodgate opened for the first time on Bayou Chene in St. Mary Parish on Friday, with local and state officials in attendance.

Gov. John Bel Edwards spoke at the floodgate, which will protect St. Mary, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Martin, Assumption and Iberville parishes, and thanked State Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin) and State Rep. Sam Jones (D-Franklin) for leading the efforts to make the floodgate, part of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, a reality.

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Kezia Setyawan
/
WWNO
The Bayou Chene Floodgate measures at a 446-feet and cost $80 million. Construction began in 2019.

“Now we have something permanent. And I think it's what the tens of thousands of residents in this area deserve, all along,” Edwards said.

Rising water levels in the Mississippi River cause the Morganza Control Structure to open during high water events, diverting water from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin. When the excess water reaches the Atchafalaya, it creates backwater flooding, threatening the area.

Previously, temporary barges were installed four times to protect the area from backwater flooding, costing between $5.5 to $8 million dollars per flood. The Bayou Chene Floodgate Project was an investment from CPRA, with an $80 million price tag paid for by the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act GOMESA, and construction began in 2019 in partnership with the St. Mary Levee District.

According to Edwards, those temporary solutions would take about 10 days to install in case of a flooding event, while the floodgate will only take 10 hours to close.

“This is a tremendous investment — it's going to pay for itself over and over and over again,” Edwards said.

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Kezia Setyawan
/
WWNO
Governor John Bel Edwards speaks at the Bayou Chene Floodgate ribbon cutting ceremony.

For Allain, this day has been a long time coming. Allain said that 6,000 households and 1,000 businesses will be protected by the floodgate for a total of nearly 30,000 residents.

Tim Matte, executive director of the St. Mary Levee District, said in a prepared statement that they are now confident to deal with the challenges that a rising Atchafalaya River brings and that the previous closures were successful, but costly and risky.

“Now with the completion of the permanent structure, we can close the Bayou in a timely manner, with minimal impacts to the navigation interests, minimal risks to team members and with minimal environmental impacts to the region,” Matte said.

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Kezia Setyawan
/
WWNO
The water control system at work at the Bayou Chene Floodgate.

CPRA Chairman Chip Kline celebrated this project’s completion and the continued efforts for ongoing hurricane protection and coastal restoration projects. This year, $1.3 billion dollars have been allocated to ongoing state coastal projects.

“We've got a lot more work ahead of us,” Kline said. “And I know that if we continue with the partnerships and collaboration and coordination that we're going to be successful in protecting the overwhelming majority of our citizens and restoring our coast.”

Kezia Setyawan is a coastal reporter for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of Houma.

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