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|Corps' engineers to make site visit to Cocodrie to view drainage|
Engineers with the Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District will visit Concordia Parish within the next month to discuss drainage -- specifically Cocodrie Bayou and the Tensas-Cocodrie Pumping Plant.
Corps engineers will also make site visits to these locations along with parish engineers.
Local officials say they are looking for fast ways to resolve simple drainage issues and want to know how the Tensas-Cocodrie Pumping Plant (TCPP) on Black River operates and want to see the Corps' water control plan. They also what to know who's responsible for the operation of gates, the process and criteria for the issuance of Corps' permits and how the Corps enforces those permits.
This upcoming visit was scheduled during a conference call between Corps officials at their Vicksburg office and local, state and federal officials who gathered at the Concordia Parish Police Jury meeting room on Monday afternoon. Representing the Corps were Doug Kamien, Dan Johnson and Barbara Peterson. Kamien is the Chief of Planning, Programs and Project Management.
Jury President Melvin Ferrington said the goal is to remedy the parish's drainage problems, which center on Cocodrie Bayou and TCPP. These drainage issues have been discussed by the Jury for years, said Ferrington, and were heightened last year when 20 inches of rain fell during Hurricane Gustav, causing widespread flooding.
"The bayou is clogged up with silt and bottlenecked at places," he said. "There are also questions about flood gates, control structures and how they are operated."
Tanner Johnson of Sen. Mary Landrieu's office told Corps officials that "what we're looking for is a common sense way to resolve these issues. There are a few pressure points along Cocodrie where we need to alleviate that stress. Aside from a federal long study and spending money, we think there should be a common sense conclusion."
Heather Malone, Executive Director of the Concordia Economic & Industrial Development District, said these drainage issues have plagued the parish for the last 20 years. She said she and other officials met with members of the parish's Congressional delegation in Washington recently to discuss this matter.
"Flooding and poor drainage affects the entire parish," she said. "When residential and commercial businesses are flooded it hurts our entire community and it affects economic development. We need to clean out the bayou and get a better understanding of the operation of the weirs and the control structures and an understanding of responsibilities."
In a letter to Congressman Rodney Alexander in May, Vicksburg District Commander Michael C. Wehr said the Tensas-Cocodrie Pumping Plant has five pumps and a gravity drainage structure and is designed to prevent backwater flooding in the area during high stages on Black River.
"During normal to low stages when the interior water elevation is higher than the elevation of the river," Wehr wrote, "the gravity drainage structure gates are open, and the interior water flows naturally out to the Black River. The pumps are typically not used when the gravity gates are open."
Wehr said when the stage of Black River is higher than the "interior water elevation, the gates are closed to prevent the Black River from backing into the Tensas-Cocodrie area. If a local rainfall event occurs while the gates are closed and the interior water elevation rises to a predetermined elevation, the pumps are used to pump the water out of the interior area and into the Black River."
He said that during Gustav the heavy rainfall occurring "several miles upstream of the TCPP" could not runoff at a "sufficient volume to initiate pumping in an efficient manner because it has to travel through the constricted channel of Bayou Cocodrie." Because Cocodrie is designated as a national scenic river, Wehr said it "has not been maintained to provide the necessary capacity to carry this kind of event. During this event, the gravity drainage structure gates at the TCPP were open, and the operation of the pumps would have not evacuated in appreciable additional water from the Tensas-Cocodrie area."
Police juror Randy Temple said the parish is flanked by levees on the east and the west and when the main north-south drainage steam -- Cocodrie -- is blocked by silt and bottlenecked then the water "can't get to the pumps and we have a big drainage problem."
Ferrington asked that issues involving Corps' permits, state regulations and other regulatory issues be ironed out in a quick, efficient manner so that work can be done.
"We are determined to resolve this," he said.
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