New River project awarded to Boone Services, Laurel Ridge Extension/Fish Bayou updated

New River dredging project (blue highlight indicates length of dredging assumed by Ascension DPW)

“They’ve held us hostage long enough,” EA Drainage Vice Chairman Chase Melancon

Councilman/Drainage Commissioner Melancon was heard to utter just before casting one of eight votes awarding New River Channel Improvements to Boone Services, LLC on Monday.  Melancon was referring to Bridging the Gap, LLC which failed to ink necessary contractual documents, all while claiming it intended to do so.  It has been 26 months since the project was first awarded to a third company, B & K Construction, which withdrew its  $4.436 million bid in late-2019 after realizing it had underbid the job.  Twice more bid, Boone Services offering the second lowest bid each time, its latest $4,816,000 offer was unanimously approved.

While significantly more (Bridging the Gap’s lowball bid came in at $3.3 million), Boone offers the expectation that it can actually perform the job; dredging 2.2 miles of New River with a budget established at $5 million nearly half-a-decade ago when the specifications called for 2.7 miles of dredging with the removal of New River’s weir included.  Those specs were altered after President Clint Cointment, taking advantage of an extant Emergency Declaration by the governor, put Ascension Parish manpower to work dredging .5 miles of New River from Smith Bayou to Bayou Goudine.

Smith Bayou gate valve installed in anticipation of weekend weather event

Cointment, availing himself of EA Drainage’s confused approval, tasked parish crews with replacing a second weir at Smith Bayou with a gate valve.  At least one Councilman/Drainage Commissioner thought the approval was to replace the New River weir…

New River weir

Oh, well.  In 2017 the original plan was simple removal, criticized by then candidate Cointment whose long-time insistence on a control structure was finally met with EA Drainage approval in October.  The Tilting Weir Control Structure intended to  replace of the existing weir in New River:

“5 tilting gates fixed with reinforced concrete structure which will allow for the weirs to be opened to the channel bottom elevation of -2.0 feet during significant rain events and closed to the design channel water structure elevation of 2.0 feet during dry weather” will come with a $1.5 million price tag.  Which is less than half the price of than all four options presented by H. Davis Cole Engineers in 2017.  Then Drainage Director Bill Roux was pitching a $20 million project back then, insisting that the City of Gonzales pick up half of the tab.

That project was approved to “go out for bid” last month but does not appear among the “currently active public notices for Ascension Parish” on the governmental website.

Two more major projects languishing on the drawing board for decades, Laurel Ridge Levee Extension and Fish Bayou control structure were the subject of updates on Monday.  Kimberly Koehl of McKim & Creed (formerly GSA Consulting Engineers) was on hand to deliver the disappointing news about the former.

The Laurel Ridge Levee project, which dates back to the Prescott Follett Drainage Plan of the early 1980s, is “mostly done with design for months.  We are waiting on Right-of-Way acquisition to finalize plans,” Koehl said.

Pontchartrain Levee District (PLD) is handling acquisitions of 30 Rights of Way, needing reappraisals because those done previously have “expired due to the Livingston lawsuit” (speaking of being held hostage).  12 reappraisals have been performed, with the remainder expected by December 31 (hopefully), 2021.  Two offers have been made to landowners.

At Fish Bayou “they’ve completed mobilization and clearing, “dewatering” the site and about to cut (Alligator Bayou) road “by mid to late November.”