Bayou Lafourche $96 million pump station project breaks ground in Donaldsonville

New station will effectively triple water capacity, according to district executive director

Staff Report
Officials and dignitaries break ground on the Bayou Lafourche pump station capacity improvement project along the Mississippi River levee top in Donaldsonville the morning of Oct. 21.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, along with members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation and several elected officials, celebrated the groundbreaking of the $96 million pump station capacity improvement project in Donaldsonville where Bayou Lafourche connects to the Mississippi River.

The pump station will protect the drinking water supply for Ascension, Assumption, Lafourche, and Terrebonne parishes and will protect against saltwater intrusion in the Lafourche and Terrebonne estuaries.

Officials gather for a photo on the Mississippi River levee top in Donaldsonville after the Bayou Lafourche pump station groundbreaking ceremony. Shown from left are Constable Jeff Henry, Donaldsonville Councilman Reginald Francis, Donaldsonville Councilman Michael Sullivan, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, U.S. Congressman Troy Carter, Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan, Ascension Parish Councilman Alvin "Coach" Thomas, U.S. Congressman Garret Graves, and state Rep. Ken Brass.

“The importance of this project to the bayou region and to our state can’t be overstated,” Gov. Edwards said. “The pump station will protect nearly 10 percent of Louisiana's drinking water supply while nourishing over 85,000 acres of marsh in some of the country's most land starved areas. We’re investing more than ever before into protection and restoration projects across our coast, and it’s clear these efforts will continue to benefit Louisiana for decades to come.”

Work to restore Bayou Lafourche and build the pump station has been ongoing since Hurricane Gustav in 2008. The storm churned up muck and debris that not only blocked the mouth of the bayou but contaminated it causing it to go septic; the waterway’s flow was too weak to flush out the clogged bayou. The new pump station will have a minimum pumping capacity of 1,000 cubic feet per second and be constructed beside the existing 450 pump station which will remain in service. 

Ben Malbrough, executive director of the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District, speaks during the groundbreaking event.

“We’re effectively tripling our capacity for fresh water entering the bayou,” Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District Executive Director Ben Malbrough said. “Saltwater intrusion is a leading contributor to land loss in this region, and this increased flow of fresh water will be critical in the long-term fight in preserving what we have and aiding in the restoration of what we’ve lost.”  

In the years following Hurricane Gustav, an influx of state and federal funding have allowed the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District to dredge portions of the bayou and remove a build-up of fallen trees and other debris. BLFWD also removed a weir on the bayou in Thibodaux that restricted the flow of freshwater.

BLFWD fought for years to get the funding and permits needed to build the sorely needed pump station, which will be one of its biggest tools in restoring the bayou, and a collaboration with state agencies finally made it happen.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks during the Bayou Lafourche pump project event as Hannah Kleinpeter and Dwayne Dupre capture the moment.

“We know the value that reconnecting the Mississippi River to our estuaries brings, and this is yet another example,” Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Chip Kline said. “This innovative partnership not only ensures the safety of a life-sustaining resource for hundreds of thousands of Louisianans, but it plays an important role in fulfilling CPRA’s mission of protecting and restoring our coast.” 

CPRA, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, and the BLFWD signed an agreement in 2019 to finance the project’s construction through a $65 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan administered by LDEQ. This EPA fund helps communities stay in compliance with the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

“Nothing is more critical than reliable, clean drinking water. LDEQ is happy to help fund this project that will ensure source water for utility systems along Bayou Lafourche. It’s a benefit to Louisiana’s environment and citizens,” LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown said.

The existing pump structure is shown along the Mississippi River in Donaldsonville.

CPRA has pledged over $50 million toward repayment of the loan using a portion of future Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act revenues it will receive from offshore federal oil and gas leases. BLFWD will repay the balance of the loan with revenues from an existing property tax.

For construction costs in excess of the loan value, BLFWD will provide an additional $5.5 million of its own funds, and CPRA will contribute a total of $26 million through a combination of GOMESA revenues and Capital Outlay funds as approved by State lawmakers.

The new pump station is anticipated to be completed and in operation by June 2025.