HOUSTON — Contractors are working on a plan to build a temporary structure that will take the place of a damaged section of a floodwall that is part of hurricane flood protection system that safeguards Port Arthur and several surrounding cities, an official said Monday.

A 250-foot section of the 1,000-foot concrete wall in Port Arthur was discovered last week to be damaged and cracked, said Phil Kelley, general manager of the Jefferson County Drainage District Number 7, which oversees the hurricane flood protection system.

Officials are still determining how that section of the concrete wall, which is nearly 40 years old, was damaged. The floodwall is part of a nearly 35-mile coastal levee system that protects Port Arthur and the nearby cities of Groves, Port Neches and Nederland. The levee system was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The damaged wall is the part of the levee system that provides protection against storm surge to a significant portion of Port Arthur and various petrochemical plants and refineries run by Valero, Motiva Enterprises and Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., Kelley said.

“Our main concern at this point is to the get that (temporary structure) in place so that the citizens and businesses of this district are protected and then we’ll look toward the permanent fix down the road,” he said.

While the damaged section of the wall has not collapsed and heavy rain would not be a serious threat to it, Kelley said the wall would likely not be able to withstand the force of a tropical storm or hurricane.

Forecasters say that Tropical Storm Franklin could be near hurricane strength when it hits Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula Monday evening, but it’s not expected to threaten the Texas Gulf Coast.

“As long as we’re not directly threatened by a hurricane, we should have this (temporary) measure in place within a very few weeks,” Kelley said.

Kelley said it would likely take several years before a permanent fix for the damage is put in place.


Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70