Backwater flood threat taken on

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2001


VACHERIE – Back in the swamps of South Vacherie, concrete protection against flooding is quickly setting. The Vacherie Backwater Project is the first major forced water drainage project in St. James Parish. The parish has been able to keep a natural gravity-fed drainage plan to the parish, keeping floodwater from being boxed in by levees. That has not kept heavy rains from flooding the parish, especially in Vacherie. Established west of Lake Des Allemands, Vacherie is susceptible to water being forced off the lake and into their back yards. Strong winds have in the past blown the water back into the canal systems that serve to drain the flood water out of Vacherie. The parish built a dam to keep out water from the lake, but that kept rain water from draining. The canals filled and the floodwater spilled into the surrounding farm land and residential areas. The dam being constructed currently, solves that problem with a gate capable of keeping out the lake water and pumps to keep water from backing up during storms. The parish is happy since the project is due to be finished in early July, right before hurricane season. T. Baker Smith of Houma is the project engineer, while Cajun Construction of Baton Rouge is the contractor for the backwater dam project. On Monday workers poured the base slabs for the dam which sits 6 feet below sea level. The walls for the dam will rise 10 feet above sea level. The project will take 450 cubic yards, or 45 cement trucks of concrete. The whole dam is set on 64 wooden pilings, each 55 feet long, driven into the mud and muck. The workers are sheltered in a coffer dam, 192 feet in diameter, which allows the canal to flow past and above their working area while they stay dry. The bypass canal, which was required in the contract, allows water and traffic to flow through the canal to Lake Des Allemends, said Thad Lovel, project representative for T. Baker Smith. In the past farmers had to line their cane fields with sand bags to keep the floods from ruining their crops. A crew of 11 men is working to complete the project that will keep Vacherie residents dry throughout any rains to come.