Smith Bayou gate valve installed in anticipation of weekend weather event

By end of business on Thursday Ascension’s Department of Public Works had installed a gate valve to replace the rock weir in Smith Bayou.  That weir blocked water from draining southward for as long as anyone can recall.  “We moved water upstream of those weirs for the first time in Ascension Parish history,” offered Drainage/DPW Director Ron Savoy at last night’s East Ascension Drainage special meeting.

The weir on west New River at Smith Bayou (up until June 17)

The “in-house project” had been part of a larger New River Dredging contract that included removal/replacement of two weirs, the other one behind Walmart in Gonzales.  That project’s history was detailed by Savoy on Thursday:

  • 5+ years of discussion with H. Davis Cole Engineers tasked to design the project in 2017;
  • Bids were let in 2019, a contract awarded to the low bidder, $4.436 Million from B & K Construction in August 2019; but the company pulled out after failing to include certain wetlands mitigation costs in its bid.
  • Rebid in September of 2020 with a change in scope to retain the weirs, but with gate valves installed;
  • The contract was initially awarded to Bridging the Gap Solutions’ $3,944,300 bid in October 2020, then successfully challenged in court for procedural deficiencies (currently on appeal).

(June 17, midday) Parish crew busy digging Smith Bayou north of the gate valve as channel dug out south of structure

Not seeing an end to that litigation, President Clint Cointment requested and received EA Drainage’s approval to undertake the weir removal/replacement on June 7.  Dredging operations were commenced without going out for another bid because of an existing Emergency Declaration in May, with another rain event expected this weekend.  The remainder of the project will go out for another bid.

“The valve installation on Smith Bayou was completed by our crews earlier today,” Cointment said.  “The valves have been opened in preparation for the storm event forecasted to hit this weekend…All three branches of the (Bayou) Goudine, all the way to southern Prairieville” will benefit from “drawing down the water level.”

By meeting time the Goudine’s water level had dropped by six inches.  The upstream waters, ultimately, will flow toward Marvin Braud Pumping Station.  Geismar and Dutchtown, parts of Gonzales are drained through the artery.

Installing the gate valve is one part of the task assumed in-house as approximately .5 miles of dredging will be done by Ascension’s Department of Public Works.

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

Formerly part of the New River project’s 2.7 miles of dredging, the parish will take on .5 mile and the project will be re-bid pursuant to EA Drainage’s approval on Thursday.  The re-bid will exclude the .5 mile being done in-house with a 120-day time frame and a projected cost of $557,847.

Drainage Director Savoy was “confident” that the job can be completed in less time.

Two EA Drainage Commissioners…

declined to approve the work on Thursday.  Councilmen Aaron Lawler and Corey Orgeron abstained, citing potential illegalities.  Two of the Council’s three lawyers, Election Day is in October of 2023.

Orgeron would also abstain from the vote “to rebid New River Canal dredging project from Bayou Goudine to the weir in New River Canal.”  He was alone as nine other commissioners approved.