New project aims to protect Port Fourchon

01 11, 2013 by Houma Courier

Port officials will begin work this spring on a long-awaited sand dune barrier project aimed at helping to protect $1 billion in Port Fourchon infrastructure.

The Greater Lafourche Port Commission voted to approve a $3 million bid to build about a mile of geotube dune protection along the beach.

The dunes will be built up to 10 feet and will feature a geotextile tube core filled with a slurry to form a more solid base that can't be easily washed away by storm surge.

The construction bid was awarded to New Orleans-based Hamp's Construction. The project came in nearly $1 million under budget, said Port Fourchon Director Chett Chiasson.

Port Fourchon officials have been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get the beachfront reinforced since hurricanes Lili and Isidore in 2002.

After those storms, port officials began working on a project to repair damages to the beach, Chiasson said. Just as contracts for the work were made and construction materials purchased, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, and the project had to be sent back to the drawing board.

This began years of frustration for the port as repeated disasters caused the project to be delayed four more times: Hurricane Gustav in 2008, the Gulf oil spill in 2010, Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 and Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

The project will include a mile of geotube filled with a sand mixture. Dunes will cover the geotube to add extra height on top of the solid base.

The goal is to have the project completed by the peak of hurricane season in August, Chiasson said.

The barrier will also tie into another project about to get underway on Fourchon Beach.

Lafourche Parish Administrator Archie Chaisson said the plan is for the port to finish its geotube project before the state begins work this summer on the Caminada restoration project. That project will restore 6 miles of beach and dunes on Fourchon Beach from La. 3090 east to Elmer's Island.

Chaisson said the parish hopes to tie the restoration project dune work directly into the geotube project to create a solid barrier of protection for the port, which services the deepwater oil and gas industry.

"We've seen so many problems in the area of the road (La. 3090)," Chaisson said. "Instead of having a solid sand dune, you'll have that extra armored component protecting the infrastructure there."

Fourchon Beach is the port's first line of defense during storms, and the port director said he's excited to see so many restoration and protection projects finally get underway.

"We're very excited about what we're seeing and what's coming," Chiasson said. "We have a new board that was just sworn in, and we're continuing to move forward into the future."