St. Charles Herald-Guide

Levees no match for restoration

By Allen Lottinger - April 5, 2006

The state and federal government will get more bang for their bucks by paying for coastal restoration, rather than building levees.

Imagine building levees designed to protect populated areas from category five, or even category three, hurricanes in South Louisiana.? It would cost far more that the $15 billion projected to stop erosion along the coast and restoring much of what washed away.

And the restoration would protect us far better by slowing up storm surges, rather than the levees that are subject to breakage and topping. Without the restoration itself, the levees would also be subject to erosion.

There are two major ingredients of coastal protection and restoration. Diversions from the rivers to bring silt and fresh water into the wetlands to build them up.

This has been started with the construction of Canarval and Davis Pond Fresh Water Diversion Projects. But Davis Pond, at least, has not been put to full use because of flaws in drainage of the river water through the weirs at Lake Cataoutchie. Instead of draining into the lake and on into the Barataria Basin, much of the water is flowing over the levees between U. S. 90 and the lake. Itís not getting to where it should be to help freshen up the basin and grow vegetation which would hold back the storm surges.

We need many more diversions of fresh water and silt into coastal areas if we are going to do the job right.

The second important ingredient is building up the barrier islands. This is our first line of defense.

The state should purchase some of those dredge boats that can suck sand into their hulls from sandy areas in the bed of the Gulf of Mexico and then take it to the islands that protect us and pump it ashore. Building up the barrier islands will slow down storms dramatically before they hit the inland. By creating miles of healthy wetlands with fresh water and silt diversions, we will slow the surges down more to the point where minimal, more affordable levees can protect us.

Private land developers are responsible for the need of so many levees to protect populated areas. Building in more protected areas, which are few and far between in South Louisiana, would lessen the need for such protection.

State and federal governments: Itís time to get started on the best way to protect us from hurricane surges. Diverting river water and silt and building up barrier islands would eliminate many of our fears for the future.