PORT ARTHUR -- A failed levee near Taylor Bayou could compromise a portion of Jefferson County south of Beaumont - mainly Port Arthur and its surrounding refineries - if a tropical storm or hurricane hit the area, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In a news release dated Aug. 4, the Corps states it was notified by Jefferson County Drainage District-7 of a failure of a section of floodwall near Taylor Bayou last Tuesday morning.
A hole in the basin created a shift in the dirt and the wall where the levee exists, County Judge Jeff Branick tells KFDM/KBTV.
A scouring in the turning basin allowed the wall of the hurricane levee to slide forward, Branick says, essentially making it ineffective to withstand even a Category 1 hurricane.
The county, drainage district and engineers are trying to come up with a remedial plan to protect the public from a tropical storm.
"There is a hole in the turning basin that allowed the footing to slide forward and displace the wall," Branick says.
The drainage district and engineers frequently inspect the levee, so Branick says he is confident the issue is isolated to this particular area near the Valero docks in Port Arthur.
It is not clear what caused the hole. There is no timetable for repairs but workers are attempting a temporary fix.
They were building a pad at the levee late Monday morning.
There is also no official cost estimate of the fix.
"A hurricane protection levee is extremely important because Jefferson County, Calcasieu Parish and the eastern part of Harris County provides much of the nation's energy needs," Branick says. "So anything that puts our energy infrastructure in danger is obviously a significant concern."
"As a result of the floodwall's current condition, we do not have confidence that it could withstand a local tropical storm or hurricane," the news release states.
"Drainage District 7 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are currently assessing the situation and are working diligently on a temporary measure to be constructed immediately, while a more long term repair is pursued."
The news release goes on to say the public should review all evacuation plans and maintain a heightened awareness of tropical systems in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Army Corps of Engineers is also encouraging the public to follow the directions of their locally elected officials if the area becomes threatened by a tropical system this year.
"Public safety is our main priority," the release states. "The Drainage District and the U.S. Corps of Engineers will continue to provide open and transparent communication with routine updates on the status of the project as we work to make immediate repairs."