Efforts to build a barrier of coastal land from the west levee in Plaquemines Parish to the east levee in Lafourche Parish continues as sediment is dredged from the Mississippi River and put in place via a pipeline.
The first strip of land is being constructed just southeast of Jean Lafitte with the construction of 390 acres along Bayou Dupont and the second strip is 415 acres of land that continues farther west.
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All of this is being built by sediment dredged from the Mississippi River and then pumped miles through a pipeline that runs through Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes to the location of the strips of land.
Chip Kline, director for coastal activities for the governor and chairman of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority board, said it’s likely to take three or four years for the work to reach Lafourche Parish.
“The more pressure you can take off the levees (the better),” Kline said. “It’s another speed bump.”
The construction is underway just south of a lake known as “The Pen.” While each of the projects have different funding sources, they are both being built by one contractor, said Mel Landry, marine habitat resource specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The first project, the “Bayou Dupont Marsh and Ridge Creation” was done through the federal/state Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) task force at a cost of about $38 million to build 390 acres of marsh. This project includes a high elevation ridge that will eventually be planted with trees for added stability and protection.
The second project, “The Mississippi River Long Distance Sediment Pipeline,” is being built through a combination of state surplus money from several years ago as well as Coastal Impact Assistance Program money to the tune of $1 million each contributed by Plaquemines, Jefferson and Lafourche parishes. In total, the project is expected to cost $66.1 million to build 415 acres of marsh.
Although the projects fall under different funding and administration, they are next to each other, so it made sense to award both projects to one contractor. Combining the two helps save money since getting set up on a site for a restoration project has a significant cost.
“As far as the contractor is concerned, this is all one project,” Landry said.
The dredging work started at the end of October and hopes were that the work would be completed by the end of August, he said. Although, when the dredge recently broke down, so much work had already been done that the delay won’t be significant or a problem, Landry said.
In addition, CWPPRA recently approved additional money to build another several segments of marsh, again using sediment dredged from the Mississippi River, he said.
The pipeline that is moving the river sediment into place is stretched out for 12 miles to reach the latest projects. It’s another 15 miles to get to the eastern levee of Lafourche Parish where the project will eventually end.
Although the benefits will be greater when completed, even now, the additional land will help provide flood protection for areas like St. Charles and Jefferson parishes as well as help maintain freshwater marshes to the north of the land, said Windell Curole, director of the South Lafourche Levee District and a member of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority board.
“Every bit you get between you and the Gulf helps,” Curole said.
Doing these types of land building projects along with diversions of water and sediment from the river means the state can start holding onto parts of the rapidly eroding coast.
“This gives us a chance to hold onto all of the marsh north of here,” he said.
Not only will it help in reducing the power of storm surges, but it will also help hold the quick influxes of saltwater or fresh water from the south. Slowing down the fresh water and saltwater movements will help the basin become a little more stable, he said.
“For the benefit of everybody here on north, it’s too good to not do it,” Curole said about the project.
The project is also an example of what parishes, local officials, the state and others can do if they work together, he said. There will always be conflicts, but cooperation can help minimize them and get something accomplished, he said.
“This turning back into the Gulf of Mexico is bad for everybody,” Curole said.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter @awold10.