Construction on a lock system at the Boudreaux Canal in Chauvin kicked off today with a ground-breaking ceremony.

The $9 million project will allow vessels to travel through the canal even when the tide is abnormally high because it will prevent large quantities of water from rushing in and flooding nearby homes and businesses, Terrebonne Parish President Gordy Dove said. It will also offer protection during hurricanes and other storms.

“We got the permit for this project in just one year and two months, which is unheard of,” Dove said. “We’re now moving into construction. This project has two phases. One is to allow marine traffic to move back and forth and to stop these high tides from coming in and flooding the roads. Then we’re building a pump station with a conveyance channel that is going to pump the water in Lake Boudreaux. We hope to be under construction at the beginning of next year with the conveyance channel.”

Lock gates also offer environmental protection, Dove said. Because the systems limit the amount of water traveling through the canals, they help prevent saltwater intrusion and help the region’s freshwater swamps and marshes.

Work crews are in the process of creating a bypass channel to allow vessels to have a pathway around the construction area, Dove said.

“Right now when there’s a high tide and a south wind that gate is closed,” Dove said. “The Levee Board can’t open it because it would allow all that water in. A lock system allows vessels to come and go no matter what your tides area. This is historic because it is the first lock system ever built in Terrebonne Parish. Then we’ll have a conveyance channel and new pump stations.”

The parish began working with GIS Engineering on the project about a year and a half ago, Dove said, and he expects it to be finished next year.

“This time next year I’m hoping we’ll be cutting the ribbon,” Dove said. “These communities will be the most protected they’ve ever been.”

Parish Councilman Dirk Guidry, who represents Chauvin, said the lock system adds another layer of protection against flooding.

“This is a great day for Terrebonne Parish,” Guidry said. “Everything is falling together. You might be safer than anywhere else in Terrebonne Parish living in Chauvin. We’ve come a long way. We’re very well-protected.”

Another lock system will be built on the Houma Navigation Canal. Gov. John Bel Edwards announced in April that an $18.5 million grant from the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council would be used to finish the engineering and design of that system.

Dove said that system will begin construction in 2019. In addition to preventing saltwater intrusion, it will help divert fresh water from the Atchafalaya River to Terrebonne’s waterways.

Parish Councilman Steve Trosclair said engineering work is also being completed on a lock system for the Bayou Terrebonne floodgate, which will be completed by April 2020.

“This is a great thing that’s happening for the bayous,” Trosclair said. “We can build nice roads and do things we want to do, but if we don’t finish what we’re doing we’re not going to have a place to live.”

--Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or at dan.copp@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.