Al Champagne’s recent move to Missouri had him packing up boxes and discovering tucked away treasures – treasures that many of his friends have enjoyed viewing.
Champagne was born and raised in St. Charles Parish. He said he decided it was time to move further north after his insurance rates spiked due to Hurricane Ida, and while packing for that move he re-discovered photos from decades ago of the Hale Boggs Bridge and Waterford 3 Nuclear Plant being built.
He posted the photos to his Facebook page, where hundreds of people began to view and share the images.
“I got the photos from a guy I knew who was in charge of taking them,” Champagne said. “He had extra copies and I thought, ‘Oh, this might be interesting years from now.”
Champagne said a teacher from Hahnville High School reached out to him this week and requested that he email her the pictures so that she could use with her students.
“I’m happy so many people are enjoying them,” he said.
The pictures of the Hale Boggs show the bridge in various stages of construction. Construction on the bridge – which totals 10,699 feet in length – started in 1974. The bridge opened to traffic on Oct. 6, 1983.
Champagne said many of his friends who have recently viewed the old pictures of the bridge have laughed that the bridge was even rusty when it was being built.
“But that’s the way they designed it,” Champagne said. “That was special steel that came from Japan. The bridge was designed to rust like that with a certain steel that only rusts to a certain point and then stops.”
The bridge weathered other things even before its opening – including the MV George Prince ferry disaster and an infamous political stunt.
The bridge was under construction on Oct. 20, 1976 when the Luling–Destrehan Ferry, M/V George Prince, was struck by a tanker while crossing the river. Only eighteen people survived, while 73 passengers and five crew members died when the ferry capsized.
The dedication of the bridge itself featured a political stunt. During then Governor David Treen’s address, an airplane flew over the site with a banner declaring “Edwards Did It” – a nod to the fact that much of the bridge’s construction took place during Governor Edwin Edwards’ prior four terms. At the time of the dedication Edwards and Treen were battling it out in a governor’s campaign – one where Treen was seeking reelection and Edwards was hoping to take back the office. Edwards won.
Champagne’s pictures of the Waterford Steam Electric Station, Unit 3 – also known as Waterford 3 – show the site’s construction. The total cost of the station topped $5 billion, and construction started in 1974.
The site, which opened in 1985, is located on a 3,000-acre plot in Killona.