Preparations underway to lower Vermilion River, advocates press for dredging

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Posted June 3, 2020

With Tropical Storm Cristobal churning in the northern Gulf of Mexico, preparations already are underway to lower water levels in the Vermilion River to reduce flooding if the storm brings heavy rain to the area.

Efforts began Tuesday to open gates controlling water at Bayou Courtableau, David Dixon, president of Dredge the Vermilion, said, and plans are to open gates at Henderson. Water will be diverted to the Atchafalaya Basin and Henderson Lake, lowering levels on the Vermilion River so it can better handle a deluge from the tropical system.

The effort already is lowering levels on the Vermilion River, he said.

Prior to Tropical Storm Barry in 2019, at the urging of Lafayette resident Harold Schoeffler and others, the Teche-Vermilion Fresh Water District stopped pumping water into the Vermilion River, which helped lower the Vermilion River. The gate at Henderson could not be opened at that time because water was too high in the Atchafalaya Basin, he said.

During Tuesday's joint city and parish council meeting and prior to the meeting at a news conference, Dixon and Harold Schoeffler, president and vice president of Dredge the Vermilion, urged Lafayette Consolidated Government to reconsider drainage projects that speed water to the Vermilion River, which gets overwhelmed and backs up into homes.

In 2016, hundreds of homes in Lafayette Parish flooded when three days of heavy rainfall caused the river to overflow. Since then, LCG has planned and undertaken large and small projects.

None of the approximately 77 projects identified, 27 of which are either under way or completed, address the largest drainage channel in the parish, the Vermilion River, its flood plain or retention areas such as Cypress Island Swamp, Dredge the Vermilion wrote in a letter to LCG officials.

Two of the biggest problems, Dixon and Schoeffler said, are that sediment has filled in parts of the Vermilion River, making it less able to carry water arriving from coulees and other drainage routes, and that widening and deepening Ile Des Cannes coulee are dumping too much water into the Vermilion River.

"LCG is not only not fixing the problem, but they're contributing to the problem," Gordon Schoeffler, attorney for Dredge the Vermilion, said.

In a letter to LCG, Congressman Clay Higgins and the Corps of Engineers, Dredge the Vermilion warned of legal ramifications if nothing is done to reduce the flooding threat.

In February, Higgins and the Corps released findings of a study that concluded the $150 million cost to dredge the Vermilion River is too high to protect only 200 homes from flooding.

LCG's sandbagging locations are open during daylight hours. They are at 400 N. Dugas Road, off North University Avenue, and 1017 Fortune Road in Youngsville. Bags and sand are provided, but residents must bring their own shovels and fill the bags themselves.

Other sandbagging locations in Lafayette Parish:

Broussard

  • 310 E. Main Street (behind City Hall)
  • Deer Meadow Subdivision (corner of Deer Meadow Boulevard and Myette Point Street)

Carencro

  • Community Center, 5115 N. University Ave.

Source: theadvocate