When it comes to restoring Louisiana’s coast, especially in the area off the Mississippi River, Ryan Lambert knows he’s going to have to give to get.
“We’re riding through an area where we duck hunted just a couple of years ago. We can’t hunt here anymore. This project has worked so well that I can’t even get a mud boat in here now,” Lambert said Tuesday morning.
Spring’s floodwaters from the Mississippi River had water covering a terracing project spearheaded by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Maybe a mud boat could have reached the duck blind Lambert pointed out in the tour on the east side of the Mighty Mississippi that morning, but by the time fall’s migration rolls around, this newly and continually rebuilding section of marsh is high and dry.
“Yep, you can ride back here in the only channel left in here in the fall and winter and the ducks are walking on land and eating duck potato. They love it, and the flock to it, but we can’t hunt it,” Lambert said.
Lambert pointed out as many as four other locations where there were remnants of duck blinds, spots where small islands had formed from the sediment carried by the outflow from the river’s natural diversion that cut through a levee opposite Buras on the river’s east bank.
This Fort St. Phillip diversion has been around for years before the LDWF and other state agencies teamed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put up $1.2 million to develop a terrace project designed to slow the diversion’s water down and allow sediment to deposit over the bottoms in the targeted areas in the marshes.
“It’s built land, and built land has a lot less cost than the diversion projects proposed in the State Master Plan,” Lambert said.
Master Plan diversions are projected in the many millions of dollars, some of it from state funds with others awaiting coastal restoration-only monies from the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster settlement.
For Lambert, building land isn’t the only target for these relatively low-cost projects. He’s watched lands on the east and west sides of La. 23 subside for all of the 35 years as the top man for Cajun Fishing Adventures. La. 23 is the only road that leads from Belle Chasse to Venice, Louisiana’s southernmost settlement along the Mississippi River.
“The state has done a good job with projects that pump sediment into areas and restore land. But marsh creation is a Band-Aid. They only build land, but does nothing to create habitat,” Lambert said, adding that restoration projects carry the added burden of maintenance to counteract subsidence.
“These (terracing) projects are creating habitat for fish and wildlife,” Lambert said. “And that’s what will keep Louisiana alive.”
Lambert said he’s willing to “take groups free of charge to learn how diversions can help save the coast.” Contact him at Cajun Fishing Adventures (504) 559-5111 or go to website: cajunfishingadventures.com.