Bayou Lafourche water district sues over barge crash damage

The Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District has sued the Houma-based D & S Marine Service over a barge crash last year on the Mississippi River that smashed a tripod-like structure known as a “dolphin.”

The dolphin was one of three that protect a water intake at the district’s Lemann pumping station on the river in the Ascension Parish community of Smoke Bend near Donaldsonville, according to the lawsuit.

The Thibodaux-based district uses the pump station to divert river water into Bayou Lafourche, which 300,000 people in downstream communities rely on for drinking water.

The suit asks a court to order D & S Marine to pay for all costs associated with the damaged dolphin, any additional costs due to that damage, as well as court costs and fees.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in the 23rd Judicial District Court in Ascension Parish, alleges a barge being pushed by the M/V Ricky J. LeBoeuf hit the center dolphin before dawn on Sept. 17, 2012.

Freshwater district personnel were not able to immediately identify the pushboat due to dark, rainy conditions but heard the collision and saw that the center dolphin was missing as the LeBoeuf backed away, the suit claims.

The suit alleges a barge pushed by the LeBoeuf hit the dolphin and the LeBoeuf is owned and operated by D&S Marine.

Messages left with the LeBouef’s owner, D&S Marine, were not returned. Benjamin Malbrough, executive director for the district, declined comment, as did the district’s attorneys.

The district did file a report with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office the morning of the accident. A district employee reported seeing a tugboat push three barges close to the bank, back up and continue upriver. It was then the employee noticed the dolphin was gone, the report says.

The employee told a deputy the tugboat had a blue light on but could not be identified.

The fresh water district sent D & S Marine a letter in October demanding it repair the dolphin and the company failed to do so, the suit alleges.