HNC Lock Benefits Bayou Region All Around

Canal noun ca·nal /kəˈnal/:  an artificial waterway constructed to allow the passage of boats or ships inland or to convey water for irrigation.

While the Houma Navigation Canal is indeed classified as a canal, it reigns as a much more significant
water channel to the near 35,000+ people—and wildlife—it protects. A navigation canal offering
protection?? Yes, that is correct! Located in the Houma Navigation Canal will be a multifaceted lock
complex project, known formally as the Houma Navigation Canal (HNC) Lock Complex (TE-113), which
will offer ecological, economic and protection benefits, among many others, to the Bayou Region.

As a means to address the severe saltwater intrusion continuously flooding and affecting the parish’s drinking water supply as far north as Houma in the late 90s/early 2000s, the Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex project was conceived and design was developed as part of the Louisiana Coastal Area Study, later becoming an integral inclusion of the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane protection system which protects approximately 150,000 residents of Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. The Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex independently moved to a 50 percent design milestone at the same time Hurricane Katrina and Rita hit Louisiana’s coast in 2005. The catastrophic effects of these storms on local structures resulted in the changing of design standards in Louisiana, halting the progress on the Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex project. However, the project’s obstacles were continuously met with innovative design and financing solutions as funds from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) and Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council) offered additional support to continue project design and begin construction. With final plans and specifications scheduled for August of 2020, the first phase of construction of the Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex is on track to begin later this year. For what is predicted to be a four-year process, the targeted date of construction completion is the close of year 2024.

“The Houma Navigational Canal Lock has always been the anchor for restoring this part of the Bayou Region, providing benefits well beyond the protection afforded through the Morganza to the Gulf system,” said Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District Executive Director Reggie Dupre, Jr.  “We have taken careful consideration to design a complex with far-reaching environmental benefits by distributing freshwater into the basin and keeping salt water at bay, but also making critical accommodations for business and industry to continue to thrive along our working coast.”

The physical components of the HNC Lock Complex include a 110 x 800-foot lock chamber with both a flood side gate and a protected side gate; adjacent to the lock chamber would the existing 250-footwide Bubba Dove barge floodgate. The two components will be tied together by a braced flood wall across the channel, and work in concert to allow larger marine vessels to traverse in and out of the canal. The HNC Lock Complex would also act as a midpoint, tying together “Reach G” and “Reach F” of  the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane protection system.

This large-scale, multidimensional hydrologic restoration project provides numerous benefits by incorporating environmental, protection, navigation and commercial features; a great reflection in the main goals of coastal restoration, flood protection, and resiliency of economy in the State’s Coastal Master Plan. Environmentally, the Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex provides restoration opportunities to the thousands of critically-starved acres of wetlands in Terrebonne Basin by limiting saltwater intrusion with the manipulation and dispersal of fresh water. The HNC Lock Complex will work in tandem with the Increase Atchafalaya Flow to Terrebonne project (TE-0110) to manage further freshwater flow into the basin, nourishing the wildlife and fisheries habitat and aiding in salt-induced land loss. Additionally, the Houma Navigation Canal lock complex uniquely allows for safe harbor navigation of marine traffic without simultaneously flooding the canal with salt water from the south. As mentioned, this project will provide critical flood protection by resisting storm surge that could inundate surrounding communities as a key feature of the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane protection system.

This project largely exhibits the great benefits that can be achieved through collaboration of local, state
and federal efforts to effectively implement a large-scale project capable of withstanding the complex
coastal challenges the Bayou Region faces. Marrying aspects of environmental and ecological benefits, in
addition to crucial flood protection, the Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex validates and
underscores the meaning behind a “working coast.”

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