Civil Construction Contractors LLC

As hurricane season approaches, communities in southeastern Louisiana look to protective barriers to help weather the storms. The state’s Terrebonne Parish is home to Lake Boudreaux, which tends to flood from the east due to erosion from saltwater. Over the years, the lake has turned into a massive area of open water behind, threatening surrounding communities such as Houma, Ashland, Chauvin, Grand Caillou and Dulac.

But just as the lake’s shores that are supposed to serve as a natural protection have weakened, so have the manmade levees. So the parish contracted Civil Construction Contractors to build and improve on a 3.5-mile stretch of levee south of Houma all the way to the Chauvin community. “These levees are really the only protection for the area,” Vice President Garrett Zeringue says. “Other than a little bit of sparse marshland, at this time, it’s the only barrier from the Gulf.” 

Civil Construction started the project in January 2010, and according to Onsite Project Manager Dennis Stephens, it’s scheduled for completion in August 2010. The company was hired to relocate an existing levee to a new center line and build it higher and stronger than the previous one. “The peculiarity of this project is most of the materials used to build it are taken from the existing levee, the canal and the ground,” Stephens says. “You pull material from the ground, dry it, stack it, process it, shape it and when you’re finished, you have a pretty good levee.” 

It may sound simple, but according to Zeringue and Stephens, it is tedious and strategic, requiring expertise from a company that knows every detail counts when lives are on the line. With more than 27 years in business, Civil Construction has that expertise. The company was founded in 1983 by its current owners, Pete and Mark Harmon. The company is broken into the following divisions:

  • Building – construct fabricated metal and block office buildings and control rooms;
  • Site prep and heavy earth moving –  including site clearing, drainage systems, pumping stations, levee and dike construction, rail sub-ballast and the removal of  contaminated earth;
  • Concrete and industrial services – Pile driving, foundations, tank foundations, concrete and asphalt paving, and structural steel erection.
  • Supplying aggregates – Supply and transportation of construction material for  earthwork applications such as sand, dirt, clay and limestone.

Earth moving has been a company staple from the beginning, and hurricane protection and levee construction has been a focus for the past five years, since Katrina. The company has worked on levees in the same area and is now assisting in the efforts to raise the levees of Lake Pontchartrain. Stephens says these previous experiences have helped the company cope with naturally occurring challenges.

“The terrain is hard to manage,” he says. “It is a wet environment, and it’s all marsh and wetlands. The process is to get the water out of the dirt. Without that, it’s like trying to build a levee on a wet sponge.” 

Another challenge is building the new levee in stages while taking down the previous one. The old levee may need replacing, but for the time being, it’s the only form of protection for the area’s landowners, something Terrebonne Parish hopes to change in the coming years.

Increased Protection

The levee currently being built by Civil Construction is part of the beginning stages of a plan set out by the Terrebonne Levee District: the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane-protection system. In the coming years, the district will erect two new floodgates that will serve as a front-line defense on the Placid and Bush canals in lower Chauvin. It will be just south of where Civil Construction is constructing the Houma levee, but until those floodgates are placed, the hurricane protection levees will serve as the area’s main shield. Providing those shields is a job that Stephens says the Civil Construction team can handle. 

“We are qualified to work on this project because we were founded as a heavy earth moving company,” Stephens says. “These levees are all earth work, so it fits right into our mold.”

But earthwork isn’t the only thing Civil Construction is qualified to do. Within its four divisions, the company has managed to double its revenue over the past four years. “Civil Construction has completed more than 3,600 turnkey construction projects, as well as provided maintenance and emergency services for over 27 years,” Zeringue says. Seventy-five percent of the company’s annual work comes from petrochemical construction and the other 25 percent is in municipal and public construction. 

According to Zeringue, despite the recession, the past 18 months have been the best 18 months in the company’s  history. He says Civil Construction managed this by not compromising its core values despite economic pressures to do so. 

“At the beginning of this economic downturn, our company leaders advised that we would continue to provide our customers with safe, quality, and valued work without compromise,” he says. “We have held to this commitment to our customers and stayed the course.”  

Part of that commitment starts before any project bids are placed or any construction begins. It starts in-house with the company’s hiring process. Zeringue says without key and well-trained employees, Civil Construction would not be able to offer the supreme service it does today. “We have grown at a pace that allows us to be selective in bringing in very competent, professional management personnel that help us grow,” he says.

This commitment to its clients and to hiring skilled workers has landed Civil Construction jobs with several Louisiana parishes and maintained private industrial construction. With each project, Civil Construc­tion makes sure to not only do the job, but to do it safely as well. 

The company says safety is at the forefront of its objectives and will continue to be well into the future. During this same time Zeringue says Civil Construction will hold to the values that have led to its current success.

“One of our goals with any project is to complete the project with a mutual feeling of win-win with our customers,” he says. 

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