Shell donation helps rebuild Fourchon

03 20, 2012 by Houma Courier

A $500,000 donation from Shell Oil Co. will help to build up Fourchon Beach and provide storm-surge protection for Port Fourchon.

The money will pay to build dunes the beach using geotubes, or large tubes made of heavy duty fabric and filled with sand. A normal dune built using only sand could easily wash away during storms; the fabric helps anchor the dune in place.

The same technique was used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild the dunes on Grand Isle after Hurricane Gustav, creating what locals nicknamed a “burrito levee.”

Shell presented the money to Port Fourchon officials at a Port Commission meeting last week.

The $5.4 million beach-repair and renourishment project aims to fortify the beach head at Fourchon Beach and create a dune to provide critical storm-surge protection.

Port officials say they hope to begin the project after Nov. 30, when this year’s hurricane season ends.

About 5,500 linear feet of geotubes will be placed along Fourchon’s shore. The beach will be built up about 2 feet, and the geotubes will add another 6 feet in height. Once the geotubes are covered with sand, the new dunes will be about 10 feet tall.

The dunes will create significant new storm-surge protection for a beach that has been ravaged by multiple storms over the last decade.

FEMA is also contributing to the project, paying about $4.2 million to repair damage to the beach done by previous tropical storms and hurricanes. The Port Commission will kick in the remaining $1.2 million.

Port Fourchon Director Chett Chiasson said Shell’s donation prevented the project from being downsized.

“With FEMA not funding the total cost of repairing the beach project, the Port Commission was considering methods of reducing the project’s cost and perhaps its size,” Chiasson said. “Shell’s generous contribution gives us the additional cushion we need to complete the project without minimizing the beach’s health or our port’s protection.”

Shell made the investment to coincide with its new Mars B tension-leg platform, a vertically moored floating platform that will drill to depths of 32,000 feet off the coast of Louisiana, said Mary Grace Anderson, development manager with the rig project.

That rig is expected to work off the coast for the next 50 years.

“We are pleased to make this donation to support preserving this unique environment and protecting the port, as well as enhancing the long-standing relationship Shell has with Port Fourchon,” Anderson said.