Corps considers new canal as part of MRGO restoration planMar 1st, 2010 | By admin | Category: Top Story
And the prospect of the Corps solving part of the MRGO problem with another canal did not sit well with the close to 100 residents who attended a public meeting held Feb. 22 at W. Smith Elementary School in Violet.
The Violet diversion proposal is part of the MRGO Ecosystem Restoration Plan feasibility study, which Corps officials hope to complete by May. The restoration plan, which covers work in St. Bernard, 10 other Louisiana parishes and two Mississippi counties, was authorized as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. According to that bill, such a diversion would reduce salinity in the western Mississippi Sound, enhance oyster production and promote the sustainability of coastal wetlands.
What was once vibrant freshwater or intermediate marsh, packed with lush cypress forests, is now largely open water. For the most part, salt water intrusion and devastating storm surge caused by MRGO are to blame for the lost land.
The new canal, Corps senior planner Greg Miller said, would seek to reverse the damage.
Miller said four locations were considered for the diversion project. One of those options was to expand the existing Violet Canal. The preferred option, though, is to dig a new, larger diversion canal in Meraux through what is now open pasture.
Pointing to both the existing Violet diversion and the larger Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion, residents at the meeting lined up to comment that another diversion was not the answer.
“We’re into it for 18 years and what’ve we accomplished?” Braithwaite resident Don Duplantier said about the Caernarvon diversion. “Nothing. Have we built marsh? No. Have we grown cypress? No.
“I just don’t want to see another hole in St. Bernard. It just depresses you.”
Miller, though, said the MRGO restoration plan, and specifically the Violet diversion and Central Wetlands components, are more involved than the Caernarvon diversion. Freshwater diversion is only one piece to the puzzle. Corps officials also plan to place dredge material from Lake Borgne or the Mississippi River into the Central Wetlands to rebuild land. The Corps also plans to reforest the area with cypress.
“I think we’ve got some of the things folks think are necessary,” he said.
Others present questioned why an additional canal was necessary when the Violet Canal already has a freshwater siphon in operation.
Miller said the issue there was twofold. First, the current siphon only flows 200 to 300 cubic feet per second (cf/s). The proposed canal would pump 1,000 cf/s 11 months out of the year and 7,000 cfs one month out of the year.
“My belief is, we have the Violet Canal,” District E Councilman Fred Everhardt said. “If the pipe can’t handle 1,000 cf/s, change the pipe.”
Miller also said businesses along the existing canal would have to be relocated in order to expand it
“We’re trying to find places where we can get the water where we want with the least impact,” he said.
The new canal would also come with levees on either side to guide the water out toward the MRGO and Lake Borgne. Without that, the surge of water would threaten to put Paris Road under water during high flows.
Talk about channeling the water out toward Lake Borgne and the Mississippi Sound made former Parish President Henry “Junior” Rodriguez look further east.
“This smells of Mississippi,” Rodriguez said to Miller. “Mississippi has been trying to get freshwater for a long time.”
The 2007 Water Resources Development Act lists “enhancing oyster production” as one of the main goals of the Violet Diversion Project. The bill also requires the states of Louisiana and Mississippi share the cost of the diversion.
Miller, though, insisted the levees would primarily protect Paris Road.
“I just have to look back at your track record, and it concerns me about the future,” Rodriguez said in response.
From the start, Miller emphasized the plan is just that – a plan.
“I don’t want to speak as if this is going to happen tomorrow,” he said.
Corps officials said the feasibility study will probably be completed in May, with the public comment period extending into July. If chosen, the proposed new canal would take two and a half to three years to complete. The overall ecosystem restoration plan would be put in place over a period of 10 years.
No funding is currently in place to implement the restoration plan, nor has the Corps identified a price tag as yet.
For more information on the MRGO Ecosystem Restoration Plan, go online to www.mrgo.gov. Comments may be made online.