East Ascension Drainage Board approved Wharton Smith’s low bid for Bluff Swamp and Spanish Lake Flood Risk Reduction Improvements-Fish Bayou, on Thursday. The lowest of three, Wharton Smith’s bid came in at $2,519,137 ($328,000 below the next lowest; and $1.4 million under Boone Services’ $3.9 million offer). From the bid packet:
STATEMENT OF WORK:
This project will include the construction of (2) 12’x12′ RCB control structures to provide flood protection and reduce flood duration of the Bluff Swamp. Sluice gates with actuators will be installed on the box culverts in order to prevent back water flooding & allow for conveyance of flow. This project will also include the construction of a concrete weir on the protected side of the structure and a conveyance channel with rock armoring on the Bayou side. Roadway demolition and replacement will be necessary for construction.
Those control structures will be accessed by Alligator Bayou Road, as depicted in the project map above.
Boone Services may have missed out on this project, but will soon to be awarded the contract for another project on Ascension’s drawing board for decades. At its regularly scheduled meeting on May 10, the Board emerged from Executive Session and authorized President Clint Cointment to award the long-awaited New River Dredging Project “in accordance with state bid laws.” While no one would confirm it, the cryptic authorization denotes the job will go to Boone Services which sued the parish to enjoin its awarding the contract to Bridging the Gap, LLC.
Budgeted at $5 million, the project originally called for removal of the weir behind Walmart in Gonzales. In August of 2019 a $4.436 Million bid from B & K Construction was accepted by EA Drainage. All seemed well, but when the company mobilized at the end of 2019 it was “realized the project could not be done without (unforeseen) wetlands mitigation.”
The 2018 Permit Application to the Corps of Engineers:
The applicant is requesting a Department of the Army permit authorization for the removal of an existing rock dam located along the western portion of the project site and the removal of an existing deteriorated sheet pile weir on the eastern portion of the project site, and the dredging of an approximate 16,168-foot reach of the New River Canal. The proposed dredging work would take place within the channel using an amphibious excavator. All excavated material is to be hauled offsite to an approved Parish upland disposal site. The purpose of the proposed project is to increase water capacity within New River. The proposed removal of the two existing structures will allow for a continuous flow through the project site. The river is proposed to be dredged to a -2.0 foot elevation with a slope not exceeding 1:4 from both banks.
During the unanticipated delay, and with a new parish president in office, it was decided to construct a control structure in place of the weir rather than simply removing it.
That part of the project will be performed “in-house” by Ascension’s Public Works Department.
After a second round of bids the job was, initially, awarded to Bridging the Gap Solutions’ $3,944,300 bid in October 2020. Subsequently, “Solutions” was dropped from the low-bidder’s corporate moniker, a technicality insufficient to derail its offering. But there were other miscues which the 23rd Judicial District Court was unable to ignore.
Boone Services, the second place bidder, filed suit seeking an injunction prohibiting Ascension Parish from entering into a contract with Bridging the Gap. That relief was ultimately granted by the district court, which is unfortunate since Bridging the Gap’s was $754,000 less than Boone Services’ bid.