PA backs floodwater diversion plans: Time to finish work won’t be increased

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, March 4, 2020

It took an executive session, but Port Arthur officials are set to finalize engineering contracts for diversion of floodwaters into detention areas at Lake Arthur and the Babe Zaharias Municipal Golf Course.

Port Arthur Public Works and Engineering Director Alberto Elefaño said the city will agree to contracts with Stuart Consulting Group of Houston for work at Lake Arthur and Babe Zaharias. The contract amount for the Lake Arthur project will not exceed $700,800, and the cost for the Babe Zaharias design will not surpass $450,789. The plan for Lake Arthur and Babe Zaharias is to divert some of the floodwaters to detention areas and not flood Drainage District 7 canals.

A request was made to increase the number of days for engineering from 265 to 280 for Lake Arthur and from 270 to 310 for Babe Zaharias from the date the contract is signed, but that was rejected after councilman Harold Doucet took issue with the request Tuesday’s city council meeting. He believed at the time Stuart was already awarded the contracts, but City Attorney Val Tizeno clarified that while approval to work on the contracts was given, nothing was signed.

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“We have to do business all about the contracts,” Doucet said. “[Stuart was] competing against all other bids. We give you a contract, we hold you to it.”

Engineers can be fired and be charged liquidated damages for failure to complete work within the number of days, but FEMA will not take away any funds, Elefaño said.

“The engineering will tell you what the path looks like,” he added. “They need to study how all the water will get from the golf course to the detention pond. We need to get all the water to there because it’s not working that way right now. We can dig a bunch of holes a lot of times, but it won’t work.”

The planning for these projects, as well as culvert upgrades in the El Vista and Port Acres subdivisions, began after Hurricane Harvey impacted the city in August 2017. The city council OK’d contract negotiations during a Jan. 27 meeting.

Elefaño said the projects help Port Arthur become more prepared for serious storms. The Federal Emergency Management Agency granted the city money toward these projects.

“I’ve been trying to get this on the agenda so we can get this started,” Elefaño said. “August 2021 was my date for completion of the construction. I’m already at [more than] two years.”

Construction of the diversion is a phase that would follow the engineering portion of the projects.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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