Hopefully this new year will be a happy one for folks in south Louisiana where we are faced with the washing away of our land into the Gulf of Mexico unless restoration gets a big boost in the months ahead. And it appears at this point that we will get it.
At least that is what Gov. Bobby Jindal is proclaiming. He is tired of studies and plans being made over and over with little construction undertaken.
Now he anticipates more than $1 billion will be spent on projects that will at least be started by the year 2011. About half of that money will come from the state and the remainder from federal and other agencies.
According of Chris Macaluso, public information officer of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, that work will include restoration of some of the barrier islands and headlands along the coast including East Grand Terre and Scofield Islands at the southeastern end of the Barrataria Basin. In the center of the basin, the levee at Grand Isle is being rebuilt by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers as a “burrito type levee” which somewhat resembles the make-up of a burrito. That consists of some eight feet of heavy clay covered with geotextile mats to keep it in place and topped by three feet of sand secured by vegetation. Much of the former levee at Grand Isle which was mostly sand was washed away by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
Beach and wetland restoration at Elmer’s Island should be started soon, Macaluso said, all the way from Fourchon to Caminada Pass. The state has been considering buying all of Elmer’s Island and turning it into a state park. Restoration of the area would go a long way to securing the stability of land on the western side of the Barataria Basin. Combined with projects east of there, it would help secure southeast Louisiana from the rapid erosion that has taken place since the river was leveed which deprived the area of the annual overflow of sediment filled river water each spring.
All of the above projects will help protect St. Charles Parish which occupies part of the Barataria Basin.Another major project planned is placement of a permanent pipeline from the Mississippi River into the wetlands of Plaquemine, Jefferson and Lafourche Parishes just below St. Charles for many miles through which sediment could be pumped from the river-bottom to restore much of the wetlands of South Louisiana. Extensions of the pipeline could be shifted to benefit different areas.
Also considered is construction of a major fresh-water diversion project from the Mississippi River at Myrtle Grove that would allow some 100,000 cubic feet of fresh water per second to be let into the wetlands. The force of that water could also push river sediment into the wetlands.
To our west, plans are underway to open up Bayou Lafourche to more fresh water from the Mississippi River at Donaldsonville mainly to protect the fresh water supply for public use in South Lafourche. It would also serve as a diversion to freshen up the wetlands along the coast and promote the growth of erosion-controlling vegetation in the Barataria Basin..
Our commitment to protecting and restoring our coast is long overdue. Hopefully the governor will keep going at his present rate and see that the job is done, whatever it takes.