Col. Ed Fleming, commander of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers New Orleans District, left, is shown the lock controls at Calcasieu Lock by lock controller Ricky Buck. The Corps did a study in the feasibility phase will look at replacing the lock to avoid navigation delays. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 12:23 PM
A proposed 75-foot gated structure placed south of the Calcasieu Lock is what Army Corps of Engineers officials believe has the best chance of being approved by federal lawmakers in an effort to improve navigation at the lock.
Jeff Varisco, project manager for the Corps’ New Orleans office, presented the findings of a Calcasieu Lock feasibility study to residents during a public hearing at the Lake Charles Civic Center on Tuesday. The meeting is part of a 45-day public and agency review period required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
Varisco said navigation delays occur at Calcasieu Lock mainly because it is used to drain the Mermentau Basin during heavy rainfall. Navigation delays cost the U.S. $5 million to $6 million annually.
“We estimate that 25 percent of the time, the lock is being used for this type of drainage,” he said. “And Calcasieu Lock is the 10th busiest in the nation.”
The 75-foot gated structure was one of five alternatives that Corps officials considered in terms of initial design and engineering plans. An economic study shows the benefit-to-cost ratio is high enough that Congress could approve the alternative, according to Varisco.
“We have pretty high confidence in those first costs,” he said. “Now, they will get further refined because we have to be more accurate when we go to Congress.”
Varisco said Col. Rick Hansen, commander of the New Orleans District, will make a decision on the tentative plan in January. A feasibility design of that plan will be done through April. A 30-day state, agency and public review period will occur in May, and the study will wrap up in September.
Residents can submit comments by calling the Corps at 314-331-8459 or emailing CalcasieuLockAdmin@usace.army.mil. The comment period ends Dec. 2.
To view the draft report online, visit www.mvn.usace.army.mil. The report is also available at the Calcasieu Public Library, 301 W. Claude St.