On Tuesday (Sept. 19), the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority was awarded $14.2 million for the engineering and design phase of the Mississippi River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp project. This project will restore over 45,000 acres of cypress-tupelo swamp.
One of the largest areas of forested wetlands in the Gulf Coast, Maurepas Swamp is a recreational treasure in Louisiana. Anglers can fish for largemouth bass, sunfish, and crappie while hunters often flock to the area in search of white-tailed deer, squirrels, rabbit, and waterfowl. Birders and wildlife viewers enjoy sightings of wading birds, migratory birds, bald eagles, and alligators, among others. Migratory birds use this swamp as a critical stopping point on their journey to wintering grounds in Latin America. The Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area spans nearly 125,000 acres across Ascension, Livingston, St. John, St. James, and Tangipahoa Parishes.
Maurepas Swamp was cut off from the river in 1814 at Bayou Manchac. This closure prevented the swamp from receiving the land-building sediment from the Mississippi River, which was vital to offset subsidence (land sinking). In addition, it deprived the area of freshwater input needed to keep salinity levels in check. As salinity increased, the freshwater species that dominated the swamp have been dying.
“The River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp project is a Coastal Master Plan priority and has long been discussed at both the state and federal levels as a key restoration project for Louisiana. We are excited to advance this important project toward construction readiness”, said Johnny Bradberry, Chairman of the CPRA Board. The project would divert freshwater from the Mississippi River through a gated structure near Garyville into a five mile conveyance channel that would deliver river water to the swamp.
In addition to providing important habitat for a diverse range of wildlife species, Maurepas Swamp is a vital source of protection to residents in the Pontchartrain Basin. This project will also enhance community resilience as the Maurepas Swamp provides a significant buffer from storm surge coming across Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas helping to protect several nearby communities in St. John the Baptist, Ascension, Livingston, and St. James Parishes, as well as important industries. The swamp absorbs rainwater that could potentially flood low-lying communities.
The $14.2 million grant has been awarded from the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council) under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act) which was signed into law as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. For more background on the Council and the RESTORE Act, see our previous blog. The Mississippi River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp is one of seven priority projects selected by the Council for restoration in Louisiana (and the largest of those seven).
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