SE La. flood authority calls for seasonal closure of floodgate - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Southeast La. flood authority calls for seasonal closure of floodgate


The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority is raising concerns about a troublesome flood gate designed to keep storm surges out of New Orleans in a hurricane.

They say the gate is not reliable. Officials want the corps to approve the gate's permanent closure through hurricane season.

He's been fishing the marshes of St. Bernard since he was four. However, with the construction of the 'Great Wall,' the 1.8 mile flood barrier in the east, fishing and tidal patterns are different.

"It's changed, everything's changed," said Christian Rhodes after a day of fishing out of Bayou Bienvenue.

The wall provides New Orleans east and St. Bernard with, perhaps, it's best chance ever against storm surge. But all is not perfect, especially with a barge swing gate that's had some problems closing.

"The dangers of operating that sector gate are very real and very concerning," said Stephen Estopinal with the Southeast Louisiana flood authority.

Thistle swing gate is one of three gates on the Great Wall. It was damaged by debris during one of it's closures and had other failures.

"It takes eight hours to close it and that's if everything is working well," Estopinal said.

Now, the new acting president of The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East has a request.

"Because the barge gate is such a difficult operation and such an Achilles heel, we would like the authority to close that June 1 and leave it closed throughout hurricane season," said Estopinal.

Even though the corps have handed the flood authority the keys to the protection system, it has to adhere to strict corps guidelines or risk breaking the law.

"We don't have the authority to act as we want. There's a manual that dictates when those gates have to be closed," said Estopinal.

Then there's the issue of current. It's already strong through the area and closing the barge gate would make it even stronger through the other two gates, which would remain open. The flood authority says it's got a plan

"They talk about increased flows through the existing gate," said Estopinal. "If we operate the Seabrook gate in conjunction with the intercoastal waterway gate, we can make it like a large lock complex."

Fishermen we spoke with said the benefits of the new flood wall and the security of knowing the gate will close far outweigh any possible inconveniences.

"If there's a functional problem that compromises the security of the people of Orleans and St. Bernard, I would worry about that," said Rhodes.

And the less worry, the better.

Corps spokesman Rene Poche says the corps would be willing to examine changes to the current procedures if they receive a formal request to do so. Flood authority officials say they thought that request had been made, but if it hasn't they say the will make it again.

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