On April 4, the Greater Lafourche Port Commission (GLPC) formally entered in to an Assumption of Maintenance Agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend the reach of the federally maintained channel in Bayou Lafourche at a signing ceremony at Corps District Headquarters.
“This agreement is the culmination of over five years of work to demonstrate to the Corps and the nation the benefits of maintaining this additional stretch of the navigable channel in Bayou Lafourche, which provides access to our Northern Expansion development at Port Fourchon,” said Chett Chiasson, executive director of GLPC.
Previously, the Corps only maintained the section of the channel from the extent of the jetties in Belle Pass to just north of Port Fourchon’s E-Slip, with GLPC being responsible for maintaining the channel north to Flotation Canal. Today’s action adds 1.1 miles of additional channel in Bayou Lafourche to the Corps’ regular program of maintenance dredging.
“Historically, the Corps maintained what they did because the port first developed along old Pass Fourchon, and then into the early stretch of Bayou Lafourche with our E-Slip development in the 1990s,” said Port Commission Board President Perry Gisclair. “But with the bulk of our growth since 2000 in the Northern Expansion developing from Bayou Lafourche into Flotation Canal, it made sense for the Corps to assume the maintenance of this additional section of waterway to protect these vital navigation interests for the nation,” Gisclair added.
Under the agreement, GLPC will perform one final maintenance dredge cycle of this section of the channel before handing off responsibility for future maintenance to the Corps.
Separate to this agreement, the Greater Lafourche Port Commission is nearing completion of its Section 203 Feasibility Study on deepening Belle Pass from its entrance at the Gulf of Mexico to the port’s Pass Fourchon waterway. The study delineates the potential for deepening draft in the channel up to 50 feet, with an eye toward developing the Gulf’s first purpose-built deepwater rig repair and refurbishment facility.
According to Chiasson, not only will this purpose-built facility add much-needed capacity to capture and retain nearly $100 million worth of repair work currently leaving the U.S. in favor of foreign facilities, but the sediment generated by the channel deepening project will yield millions of cubic yards of material that can also be used to rebuild coastal wetlands.
GLPC intends to have the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) completed and out for public and agency comment this spring, with a goal of federal authorization for a deeper channel into Port Fourchon by early 2019.