Larger levee project planned for Iberia
LAFAYETTE — Two flood gates are planned in Iberia and Vermilion parishes that supporters say could hold back some of the storm surge such as when water pushed into homes when Hurricane Rita hit southwest Louisiana in 2005.
The Iberia Parish Levee, Hurricane and Conservation District is moving forward with the design and permitting of a new floodgate on the Delcambre Canal, and the Vermilion Parish Police Jury has laid the groundwork for a companion project on Bayou Tigre.
The two waterways serve as routes for hurricane storm surges to push inland from Vermilion Bay.
The idea is to build a large structure that can be closed as a hurricane approaches, making a temporary dam of sorts to hold back the water.
In Iberia Parish, the floodgate on the Delcambre Canal is part of a larger planned project to build a 26-mile levee across the parish.
“This is our first stake in the ground,” said Patrick Broussard, with the Iberia Levee, Hurricane and Conservation District.
The levee project is estimated to cost $420 million.
The scaled-down plan to start with just the floodgate comes after Iberia Parish voters in April shot down a proposed 5-mill property tax and half-cent sales tax to fund the overall project.
Broussard said the goal is still to build the 26-mile levee, but the floodgate will offer protection to one of the lowest and most flood-prone coastal areas.
The Iberia Parish levee district has about $1.2 million in local and state funds for the floodgate on the Delcambre Canal.
“The money is to get this to the point where this is shovel ready,” Broussard said.
He said the levee district will continue seeking additional funds for the estimated $26 million construction cost for the floodgate.
One potential source of funding is the trust fund set up by the federal RESTORE Act, which sets aside 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines from the 2010 BP oil leak to states affected by the disaster.
“There is nothing that has been finalized, but we are certainly expecting some restore money,” said Iberia Parish Chamber of Commerce CEO Janet Faulk-Gonzales.
She said efforts will be made to seek out the additional funds over the roughly two years it will take to design and secure permits for the Delcambre Canal flood gate.
In neighboring Vermilion Parish, the police jury has set aside about $12 million for a companion flood gate project on Bayou Tigre, said Police Juror Kevin Sagrera, who chairs the police jury’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Committee.
Sagrera said Bayou Tigre, in eastern Vermilion Parish, and the Delcambre Canal, in western Iberia Parish, are interconnected and that building a floodgate on only one of the waterways would be of little use.
“If you have a floodgate, only one, it will circumvent the other one,” Sagrera said. “The two have to go hand in hand.”