GONZALES — East Ascension drainage officials backed a plan Wednesday to temporarily close the Frog Bayou lock and pursue construction of a 600-foot-long drainage channel linking Bluff Swamp to the nearby Spanish Lake area.
East Ascension drainage officials said the $705,000 plan is needed because a lock that had controlled drainage in Frog Bayou, which drains the Bluff Swamp, has failed.
The Bluff Swamp runs along Bluff Road in the northwestern part of the parish. Homes are situated adjacent to the swampy area, which is just east of Spanish Lake.
The East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District No. 1 Board of Commissioners agreed, 6-0, Wednesday in a special meeting to declare an emergency because of the failure of the lock, which dates from the 1950s.
The Frog Bayou lock runs underneath Alligator Bayou Road and drains into Bayou Manchac, which flows beside the road.
East Ascension Drainage Director Bill Roux told commissioners the corrugated pipe that was part of the lock structure is completely gone.
He said parish officials also need to stabilize the road over the structure. One lane is currently closed in the area.
But he explained that when that lock work is done, the parish will not have the ability to continue to drain Bluff Swamp through the lock. He said if a significant storm event were to occur, there could be major flooding problems.
To drain the swamp, parish officials are proposing digging a 400- to 600-foot-long channel from Bluff Swamp to Spanish Lake and using the nearby Alligator Bayou lock to drain the whole region.
Roux said the channel, which would need a right of way of about 100 feet wide, would be routed through land owned by the parish and the Pontchartrain Levee District.
The two drainage basins — Bluff Swamp and Spanish Lake — are separated by a levee and controlled by separate locks. The proposed channel would create a path through that division below the locks.
The Spanish Lake area is drained by Alligator Bayou, which drains into Manchac Bayou through locks also under Alligator Bayou Road and just down the road from the Frog Bayou locks.
The Alligator Bayou locks are in Iberville Parish and controlled by that parish.
Roux said the emergency work would remain in place until long-awaited plans to expand the Frog Bayou locks materialize.
That project has been waiting for several years on completion of a study of the area being done in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Pontchartrain Levee District that still has not been made public.
Roux indicated in an interview after the meeting that study was essentially moot at this point from the parish’s point of view because of funding questions surrounding it.
During the meeting, Parish President Tommy Martinez suggested the parish might look in the future at enlarging the locks at Alligator Bayou in conjunction with the new channel instead of Frog Bayou’s locks.
Councilman Randy Clouatre, who is chairman of the drainage board, said the parish has been in contact with the levee district and had preliminary contact with the Corps of Engineers.
The channel dredging is likely to need a corps wetland permit.
“We think we have a good avenue,” Clouatre said.
When asked by Councilman Benny Johnson, Roux replied that if the parish were to repair the Frog Bayou locks, drainage officials would still need to isolate the locks from water with a coffer dam and eliminate drainage of Bluff Swamp for several months.
“The bypass channel is necessary either way you go with it,” Roux said.