Vermilion

Oct 13, 2011 1:58 AM by Jim Hummel

Barge Hits Lock; Saltwater Intrusion Expected

Farmers in western Vermilion Parish are bracing for saltwater intrusion, which could threaten crawfish and rice yields in the months ahead. The intrusion is expected because of damage at the Leland Bowman Lock outside of Intracoastal City, which was hit by a barge on September 30th.

"It's not too uncommon, but this is probably more severe damage than we usually see on a set of gates," said Lynn Tinto with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Repair work is expected to begin early Thursday morning when the gates will be lifted out of the water by a crane and transported elsewhere for welding. It's unclear exactly how long those repairs will take, but Vermilion Parish officials were given an estimate of four to five months.

In the meantime, the lock is essentially inoperable, which is a problem for farmers in western Vermilion Parish since the lock keeps saltwater out of the Mermentau Basin.

"It could be devastating for agriculture," said Sherrill Sagrera, who farms crawfish, rice and cattle in Vermilion Parish. "We're trying not to pump [water], but now is the time of year that we're flooding crawfish fields and we hate to put saltwater back on the land."

In response to the impending intrusion, the Vermilion Parish Police Jury passed an emergency resolution Wednesday night asking the Army Corps of Engineers to secure funding so that work can be done around-the-clock, that in hopes of decreasing both the repair time and the damage.

"Four and a half months is just too long," said Police Jury President Wayne Touchet. "We have saltwater in the basin which is higher than it should be, so we can't afford to get anymore saltwater in the basin."

Jim Hummel

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