Corps set to contract for Albemarle, Buck Chute work

Published 11:43 am Friday, September 9, 2011

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected next week to approve spending more than $3.1 million to reinforce parts of the mainline Mississippi River levee at Lake Albemarle and Buck Chute, where the Corps and state levee officials scrambled to patch sand boils and stop sliding during the Mississippi River Flood of 2011.

Thibodaux, La.-based Phylway Construction LLC was awarded the contract Aug. 30, Corps spokesman Kavanaugh Breazeale said. Thursday is the day the Corps expects to issue a formal notice to proceed on multiple upgrades in a compact, three-month time frame.

“They have 120 days. The onus is on them,” Breazeale said.

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Classified as a woman-owned business in contract documents, Phylway’s offer totaled $3,100,225 and was the lowest qualified bid out of six finalists.

Crews will build a 1,700-foot berm with 30 relief wells at Buck Chute and a barrier across about 300 feet of weak landside levee at Lake Albemarle. Work at the two spots, about seven miles apart, will be done simultaneously, according to the Corps.

Congressional funding secured the contract, though the money was tied to the project being labeled a “seepage control” project — the lone method by which the Corps can even refer to the area as “Buck Chute,” Breazeale said.

Buck Chute, west of Eagle Lake, forms the southernmost point of the mainline levee system in Mississippi — the most vulnerable point in the levee system in the state due to chronic seepage from the river trying to find a way to its former stem. Work to build a sand berm and relief wells was scheduled in spring but scrapped when hunters found new sand boils during the river’s first spring rise in March. A 2-acre berm was built, minus the wells, and the Muddy Bayou Control Structure was opened to elevate the lake about 12 feet above normal stages to ease water pressure on the levee.

Farther north at Lake Albemarle, about 300 feet of landside levee gave way May 16, three days before the river crested in Vicksburg at 57.1 feet, or 14.1 feet above flood stage, and nine-tenths of a foot higher than the 1927 flood. Five sand boils nearby were found and sealed with about 18,000 tons of sand and rock in the following week.

Project information before work was awarded does not specify raising the levee at Albemarle.

Principle features of the work — according to a summary for prospective bidders — included, but were not limited to, mobilization and demobilization, clearing and grubbing, degrading existing berms and stone dikes, stone dike construction, semicompacted and uncompacted berm embankment, relief well construction, horizontal collector drains, excavation, levee surfacing, removal and stockpile of crushed stone access road, existing turf maintenance, new turf establishment, erosion control, corrugated metal pipe, storm water pollution prevention and environmental protection.