Louisiana loses the size of a football field of wetlands every hour to open water. Many people have heard that statistic and the comment that a comprehensive approach is needed for a complex problem. With the State’s Coastal Master Plan in place, planning and projects are moving forward. . Since 2007, Louisiana has put more than $18 billion to work towards restoring and protecting its coast. The settlement with BP will also contribute nearly $7 billion more to coastal restoration and protection of coastal communities.
By dredging the Mississippi River with 9 active dredges, 95.4 million cubic yards of fill material has been placed to build marsh where there was previously open water. In total, more than 26,241 acres of land have benefited and over 150 projects have been constructed.
In anticipation of the funds from the BP settlement being used to move projects toward implementation, let’s take a look at a few highlights of what’s has been done so far:
Bayou Dupont Marsh Creation
Bayou Dupont marsh was built with dredged material from the Mississippi River. In 2009, the Bayou Dupont Project in the Barataria Basin became the first project to use riverine sediment for marsh creation. This pioneering project dredged approximately 2.6 million cubic yards of sandy material from the riverbed and delivered it five miles to the southeast via pipeline, creating more than 960 acres of intertidal marsh inside three areas defined by nearly 26,000 linear feet of earthen containment dikes. Bayou Dupont was funded with an 85% federal and 15% state cost share under the CWPPRA Program at a total cost of $104.4 million.
Part of Bayou Dupont was built using the long-distance sediment pipeline. This project reestablishes a stretch of emergent wetlands by using Mississippi River sediment and provides an adequate corridor that supports equipment mobilization for long-distance sediment conveyance while minimizing incremental and future environmental impacts. By using the pipeline, the Barataria land bridge can be restored and several marsh creation projects can be implemented. In fact, phase three of the above mentioned Bayou Dupont project utilized the Mississippi River long distance sediment pipeline. The project has created and nourished approximately 415 acres of marsh.
The $59+ million project is funded through Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) provided by the State, as well as Plaquemines, Jefferson and Lafourche Parishes.
In addition to marsh creation, more than 45 miles of barrier islands and berms have been constructed: Caillou Lake Headlands, Chenier Ronquille, Shell Island and North Breton Island. A total of $1.024 billion has been spent on barrier island and headland restoration projects, mainly from early-NRDA funding.
Caminada Headland West and East Projects
The Caminada Headland West and East projects are the largest barrier island restoration projects in Louisiana’s history. The Caminada Headland West restoration project created and enhanced 303 acres of beach and dune habitat. This project has restored and is protecting beach and dune habitat across the Caminada Headland through the direct placement of approximately 5.4 million cubic yards of sandy material from Ship Shoal (an offshore borrow source). The sand was barged to a staging area near the mouth of Belle Pass, then pumped via a pipeline for placement on the shoreline. As the project progressed, the pipeline was extended along the six mile stretch. This project aimed to reinforce almost six miles of barrier headland habitat, reducing the impacts of storm events on Port Fourchon and Highway 1, a vital hurricane evacuation route for Fourchon and Grand Isle. The restoration of Caminada East was completed at a cost of $70.7 million sourced from state surplus funds and CIAP (Coastal Impact and Assistance Program) funds from offshore oil and gas production.
The Caminada East Headland project is the largest restoration project ever undertaken by Louisiana’s CPRA. This project will continue the work from the Caminada Headland West project and will continue to provide enhanced important habitat for nesting shorebirds. The headland is also critical for migratory birds, as it is one of the first available stopover sites during migration. The headland is also critical habitat for the endangered piping plover. A total of 489 acres of beach and dune habitat and 8.9 miles of shoreline will be restored in Caminada East at a total cost of $147, 204,832.
Scofield Island Restoration
The restoration of Scofield Island is being done using sediment from the Mississippi River. This restoration project uses existing berm to create a barrier island project with dune and marsh habitat. Sediment travels for 22 miles from the Mississippi River to the Scofield Island barrier island site in Barataria Bay. A total of 237 acres of dune and 369 acres of marsh will be created at a cost of $60.8 million. Funds left from BP’s Berm to Barrier program is paying for the completion of this project.
The state has spent more than $456 million on projects to mitigate the effects of sea-level rise and coastal erosion by implementing hydrologic restoration, oyster barrier reef projects and shoreline protection projects.
Biloxi Marsh Oyster Reef Living Shoreline Project
The Biloxi Marsh Oyster Reef Living Shoreline Project will provide protection to approximately 21 miles (5,340 acres) of shoreline in St. Bernard Parish from Eloi Point to the mouth of Bayou La Loutre around Lydia Point and Pauline Point and around the southern shore of Treasure Bay by installing living shoreline products. The bioengineered, marsh-fringing oyster reefs promote the formation of self-sustaining living shoreline protection structures. Oyster barrier reefs provide protection against waves and storm surge while also providing a broad range of other ecosystem and economic benefits. Once established, these reefs are naturally self-maintaining. This project is not yet funded but was submitted by CPRA to the RESTORE Council for Pot 2 funding.
What about criticism that too much money is spent on studies? Of the allocations in Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s budget, 67% of those funds are used for actual construction of projects. A mere 20% of those funds are used for planning, engineering and design.
Other programs have been working on coastal wetland restoration in Louisiana. Since 1990, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) has authorized 151 coastal restoration or protection projects benefiting more than 110,000 acres in Louisiana. The annual budget for CWPPRA-funded restoration has varied. CWPPRA projects include marsh creation and restoration, barrier island creation, shoreline protection, hydrologic restoration, beneficial use of dredged material, terracing, sediment trapping, vegetative planting and bank stabilization.