Warren County Supervisors discuss closed LeTourneau boat ramp, solutions to reopen
Published 5:19 pm Thursday, August 31, 2023
The LeTourneau boat ramp, which was closed by the Warren County Board of Supervisors last year, was a topic of extended discussion during this week’s working meeting.
County Engineer Keith O’Keefe presented four options to the board on Monday, all ranging between $300,000 and $3 million, to restore the boat ramp. The LeTourneau ramp must be restored, he said, as a matter of public safety and ensuring adequate river access in the event of an emergency.
“We’ve done quite a bit of analysis on different options. There’s a need for an operable boat ramp in that part of the county for emergency responses,” O’Keefe said. “You never know when something’s going to happen and it becomes an emergency.”
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The first option he mentioned was a complete relocation of the boat ramp to property currently owned by the Lomenick family. O’Keefe said he had spoken with members of the family and gotten an appraisal on the property. However, complete relocation of the ramp would be the most expensive solution.
“We got a cost estimate of $3 million-plus to reconstruct the road, buy the property, build the ramp and build a parking lot, that type of thing,” O’Keefe said.
Option two, he said, is to conduct a waterside excavation project using a spud barge and a track hoe. The project could be done using a local contractor; however, project costs would also near $1 million.
“Over the past couple or three weeks, we talked to a local contractor about a waterside excavation with a spud barge and a track hoe. In using that method, it would take somewhere around 30 to 40 days to do that work,” O’Keefe said. “That’s part of the problem, when you’re looking at cost, is the amount of time it takes to do that.”
Based on production rate and probable cost, a waterside excavation operation would cost between $800,000 and $900,000.
The third option is to bid a dredging project for a fourth time. In the last year, Warren County has requested bids for dredging at the LeTourneau boat ramp three times. Only one of those times yielded a bidder, Florence-based Hemphill Construction.
An aside to the dredging option, O’Keefe said, involves a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Obviously, water levels are not where we could dredge it right now, but that is the most economical way to do it. The Corps has a contractor on board scheduled to be here in the month of October,” O’Keefe said. “We talked to the Corps about what they’re paying for that operation. And, if water levels can get to where we need them to be, we can probably get that done for somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 to $400,000.
“If the water levels don’t get where we need them to be, then we’re probably looking at a different mobilization cost, which could push it up to close to half a million dollars,” he added.
Regardless of the route the Board of Supervisors chooses, O’Keefe said, something must be done to ensure there is an operable boat ramp in the LeTourneau community.
On Monday, the board is expected to declare an emergency for repairs at LeTourneau ramp, which will help expedite the repair process.
“I’ve had some discussions with (Board Attorney Blake Teller) about declaring an emergency and putting a project out to bid to do the dredging as opposed to waterside excavation, which is twice the cost,” O’Keefe said. “And then, we’re in the position to do the dredging operation when water levels do come back up. Because at some point, they will come back up, and we need to be able to begin dredging promptly.”
SIGN OF THE TIMES
In addition to discussing possible solutions to reopen the LeTourneau boat ramp, Board Vice President Dr. Jeff Holland also expressed his concerns about safety at the ramp after recent issues.
“We need to put some kind of sign (at LeTourneau) or something, to get people to understand that they’re driving on top of the stuff that is baked, and we’ve been watching the rutting that’s going on in real-time,” Holland said, adding that ruts at the boat ramp are one foot deep and rapidly growing. “They’re on the verge of breaking it.”
If boaters launching at the closed LeTourneau ramp break through the sun-baked soil and into the silt below, it will be nearly impossible to get out and back to dry land, Holland said.
“People are driving on top of it to launch their boats. They’ve decided it’s safe, but what’s underneath (the baked soil) is water,” he said. “It’s Jell-O, to be more specific. It’s almost like quicksand but not quite that firm, to be honest.
“We need a sign that says, ‘Stop Stupid,’ or something,” Holland added.
O’Keefe said Monday a sign was ordered and will soon be posted.