On Wednesday, March 8, 2017, Governor John Bel Edwards sent a letter to President Trump requesting that five restoration projects in Louisiana be selected as “high priority” in response to the president’s executive order, Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects. Governor Edwards explained that much of the funding is in place for these projects, however, the final hurdles lie in the approval process of permitting and environmental review.
The projects include the Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton sediment diversions, Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex, Calcasieu Salinity Control Measures, and River Reintroduction to Maurepas Swamp.
“There is a single investment we can make together that will pay dividends to the entire country,” Edwards wrote. that investment is in coastal restoration in Louisiana.
These projects will greatly benefit the state by contributing to the “protection of Louisiana’s coastal landscape and economy, leverage Deepwater Horizon oil spill recovery dollars, and further grow our state’s burgeoning water management sector”, said Edwards.
Not only will investing in coastal restoration projects help Louisiana, says Edwards, but it will also “impact numerous geographic areas and aspects of the nation’s economy: energy production, transportation and refining; intermodal commerce and trade; fisheries; disaster resilience; and natural capital.”
Louisiana is the second largest producer of oil and gas for the country and the state’s ports “handle 60% of the nation’s grain and 20% of all national waterborne commerce”. Of the top fifteen ports in the nation, five are found in Louisiana. The state also attracts hunters and anglers from around the world and is known as a “sportsman’s paradise”.
The five projects highlighted have already been fast-tracked in the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s (CPRA) 2017 draft update of the state’s coastal master plan.
Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion ($1.3 billion) – 75,000 cubic feet per second of sediment (max flow) would allow sediment, freshwater, and nutrients to build and maintain marsh in the Barataria Basin, which has lost around 30% (75,000 acres) of its land area between 1975 and 2010 and is projected to lose another 3,000 by 2060 if nothing is done.
Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion ($696 million) – A maximum of 35,000 cubic feet per second would deliver sediment, freshwater, and nutrients to the Breton Sound Basin. This project was studied for 15 years as part of the Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration Study and has been deemed a “near-term critical restoration feature.”
Houma Navigation Canal Lock Complex ($384 million) – Part of the Morganza-to-the-Gulf Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System, this project would reduce salt water intrusion to the mid-Terrebonne basin, which experiences some of the most severe rates of land loss, and distribute and retain freshwater entering the system.
Calcasieu Ship Channel Salinity Control Measures ($441.1 million) – Benefiting over 20,000 acres of marsh around Calcasieu Lake over the next 50 years, this project aims to reduce salt water intrusion from the Gulf via the ship channel.
River Reintroduction to Maurepas Swamp ($186.9 million) – This freshwater diversion project will deliver freshwater, nutrients, and sediment to the Maurepas Swamp, one of the largest areas of forested wetlands and an important storm buffer to the communities around it. This diversion (max flow of 2,000 cfs) would benefit 45,000 acres and allow for regeneration of bald cypress and tupelo.
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