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|Questions arise concerning pumping plant|
A representative with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Vicksburg says department officials would be happy to discuss the Tensas-Cocodrie Pumping Plant with the Concordia Parish Police Jury as well as the guidelines for operation as set forth in the operating manual.
But Greg Raimondo, Public Affairs Chief for the Corps' Vicksburg District, said overall operation guidelines -- not just specific clauses -- dictate the operation of the pumping plant.
Questions about use of the pumps often arise following periods of heavy rainfall and local flooding. Earlier this month some areas of the parish began to flood after more than 10 inches of rain fell in 48 hours on Jan. 9-11. Thirteen inches total fell in about four days.
The Corps is in charge of the upkeep and operation of the pumping plant and adjacent gravity flow structure.
The Tensas-Cocodrie pumping plant and gravity flow structures are located on the Black River levee on two forks of Wild Cow Bayou between Eva and New Era off Hwy. 129.
At Monday's meeting of the Police Jury, juror Jimmy Jernigan, quoting from the operating manual, said the pumps are to be operated only when the interior (landside) water level at the pumping station exceeds the elevation of 35 feet.
He quoted another passage that said the pumps will be turned on "when the headwater at the Wild Cow Bayou Weir Structure reaches the elevation of 36 feet."
Jernigan said the river level at the pumping station on Monday was 35.5 feet and its highest level during the recent flood event was 37.9 feet.
He said the upper weir's highest reading was 39 feet, while it stood at 37.7 feet on Monday.
Jernigan questioned why the pumps weren't turned on after these conditions were met.
"I'd like to just sit down with the Corps and ask some questions so that we can understand how the pumps are suppose to operate," Jernigan said.
The Corps' Raimondo said the pumping plant is designed to remove excess water when Black River stages do not permit discharge through the gravity flow structure.
He said that during the recent period of flooding "the water level was always lower on the river side than on the land side."
He pointed to a passage in the operating manual that notes: "The pumping plant consists of five 800 c.f.s. pump units used to remove excess sump water when the Black River stages do not permit discharge through the gravity structure."
During extremely high rainfall events, if questions over the operation of the pumps arise, the Corps' Water Control Management Section determines whether the pumps should be used.
Cocodrie Bayou, the parish's main drainage artery, has filled with silt and debris since the Tensas-Cocodrie Pumping Plant went on line in the 1980s. The Police Jury says the costs to dredge and clean out the bayou are cost prohibitive and is seeking other ways to improve drainage.
On Jan. 12, during the period of heavy rainfall, Corps engineers measured the flow of Cocodrie at its confluence with Cross Bayou at 4,500 cubic feet per second.
To the southeast at the 565 bridge, Cocodrie's flow had slowed to 3,600 cubic feet per second.
Roimando said measurements showed that Cross Bayou was backing up at 750 cubic feet per second and flowing into Horseshoe and Black River lakes instead of flowing down Cocodrie.
"The water just can't get down Cocodrie because it hasn't been cleaned out in so long," he said.
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