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October 21, 2022
DONALDSONVILLE, La. – Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards, members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation and several elected officials celebrated the groundbreaking of a critically needed $96 million pump station in Donaldsonville where Bayou Lafourche meets the Mississippi River. The pump station will protect the drinking water supply for Ascension, Assumption, Lafourche, and Terrebonne parishes and will combat saltwater intrusion in the Lafourche and Terrebonne estuaries, which experience some of the highest land loss rates in the world.
“The importance of this project to the Bayou Region and to our state can’t be overstated,” said Gov. Edwards. “The pump station will protect nearly 10 percent of Louisiana’s drinking water supply while nourishing over 85,000 acres of marsh in some of the country’s most land starved areas. We’re investing more than ever before into protection and restoration projects across our coast, and it’s clear these efforts will continue to benefit Louisiana for decades to come.”
Work to restore Bayou Lafourche and build the pump station has been ongoing since Hurricane Gustav in 2008. The storm churned up muck and debris that not only blocked the mouth of the bayou, but contaminated it causing it to go septic; the waterway’s flow was too weak to flush out the clogged bayou. The new pump station will have a minimum pumping capacity of 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and be constructed beside the existing 450 cfs pump station which will remain in service.
“We’re effectively tripling our capacity for fresh water entering the bayou,” said Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District Executive Director Ben Malbrough. “Saltwater intrusion is a leading contributor to land loss in this region, and this increased flow of fresh water will be critical in the long-term fight in preserving what we have and aiding in the restoration of what we’ve lost.”
In the years following Hurricane Gustav, an influx of state and federal funding have allowed the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District (BLFWD) to dredge portions of the bayou and remove a build-up of fallen trees and other debris. BLFWD also removed a weir on the bayou in Thibodaux that restricted the flow of freshwater.
BLFWD fought for years to get the funding and permits needed to build the sorely needed pump station, which will be one of its biggest tools in restoring the bayou, and a collaboration with state agencies finally made it happen.
“We know the value that reconnecting the Mississippi River to our estuaries brings, and this is yet another example,” said Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Chairman Chip Kline. “This innovative partnership not only ensures the safety of a life-sustaining resource for hundreds of thousands of Louisianans, but it plays an important role in fulfilling CPRA’s mission of protecting and restoring our coast.”
CPRA, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), and the BLFWD signed an agreement in 2019 to finance the project’s construction through a $65 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan administered by LDEQ. This EPA fund helps communities stay in compliance with the requirements of the Clean Water Act.
“Nothing is more critical than reliable, clean drinking water. LDEQ is happy to help fund this project that will ensure source water for utility systems along Bayou Lafourche. It’s a benefit to Louisiana’s environment and citizens,” LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown said.
CPRA has pledged over $50 million toward repayment of the loan using a portion of future Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) revenues it will receive from offshore federal oil and gas leases. BLFWD will repay the balance of the loan with revenues from an existing property tax.
For construction costs in excess of the loan value, BLFWD will provide an additional $5.5 million of its own funds, and CPRA will contribute a total of $26 million through a combination of GOMESA revenues and Capital Outlay funds as approved by State lawmakers.
The new pump station is anticipated to be completed and in operation by June 2025.
Additional resources regarding the pump station and related projects can be found here.