New bridge at Davis Diversion project should be open soon

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 15, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / July 15, 2000

LULING – Highway traffic should be diverted onto the new U.S. Highway 90bridge at the Davis Diversion project, as well as on River Road between Luling and Ama, in a matter of weeks, according to the project’s resident engineer, Dennis Duhon.

In fact, according to Jack Fredine, overall project manager for the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers, the project remains on schedule and most portions will be completed next spring.

The recent dry spell gave the construction workers “incredibly good working conditions out there,” Fredine said.

The freshwater diversion structure itself, located at River Road and the Mississippi River, should be ready for use by April 2001, Duhon added.

Also to be completed will be the replacing of River Road and U.S. 90, alongwith the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern railroads to their original beds, as well as the Cypress Bayou levee along the westward sweep of Cousins Canal toward its outlet at Lake Cataouatche.

Duhon continued that the traffic on Highway 90 and River Road will return to the old alignment next month, with only one day causing a bit of slowdown when traffic will be slowed to one lane each way while barricades are moved.

After that point, he said, passing motorists will have nothing to impede their progress and the remainder of the diversion project will have no effect on highway traffic.

The last segment to be let for bids is for digging out the four-mile outflow channel, which likewise is expected to be completed next spring.

The overall project, which broke ground in June 1997, is expected to be usable by late spring 2001 and completed in fall 2003.

The diversion structure itself, a $12.7 million contract awarded in March1997, is due to be completed in April 2001.

The $105 million project is to construct a gated channel to divert fresh river water toward Lake Cataouatche, Lake Salvador and the Barataria Basin to reduce salt water intrusion.

This will help preserve and protect wildlife and fisheries habitat, provide additional hurricane storm-surge protection and provide recreational opportunities, while fighting coastal wetlands loss.

“We need to have the diversion structure ready as soon as possible,” Fredine commented, as hurricane season increases the chance of storm- related saltwater intrusion.

The diversion project includes four iron-gated 14×14-foot gated box culverts. An inflow channel 535 feet long by 85 feet wide will direct riverwater into this structure, while an outflow channel more than 11,000 feet long and 120 feet wide will direct the water into a 9,300-acre ponding area west of U.S. 90.Once the levee is replaced over the structure, with the gates in the river batture, little will be obvious on the land side except a wide canal extending 1.2 miles toward U.S. 90, then just over four more miles to LakeCataouache, by way of a pumping station.

The pumping station, located east of Willowdale Road, has three natural- gas powered pumps capable of pumping 190 cubic feet per second.

Fredine said the difference will be perhaps three inches in Cataouatche and one inch in Salvador.

Control of the diversion structure’s operation will be managed by the “Davis Pond Advisory Committee,” including representatives from St.

Charles, Jefferson, Lafourche and Plaquemine parishes, and will also include fishermen, landowners and representatives of state and federal agencies.

The state Department of Natural Resources will have salinity-monitoring stations all the way to Grand Isle and, when the gates need to be opened, DNR will direct it through the parish’s Department of Emergency Operations.

Funding for the construction project and for its ongoing operation was divided between federal and state sources, 75 percent of it federal. It isestimated use of the diversion structure will provide $15 million in annual fishing benefits and help preserve more than 50 square miles of marshland.

According to Fredine, Louisiana has 40 percent of America’s wetlands but 80 percent of its annual wetlands loss. He added that every second anaverage of 30 square feet of wetlands is lost in this state.

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