Plaquemines Parish has begun work on the second phase of the Buras Boat Harbor Shoreline Protection Project, which involves the use of a new matting product to be placed on the shoreline.

The mat will be installed across a raised berm at mean tide level. More than 600 feet of material was installed in phase one, with an additional 4,000 feet to be installed in phase two.

The Vegetated EcoMatrix system provides a cost-effective solution for shoreline protection and bank stabilization, a parish spokeswoman said. The system uses matrix sheets that are manufactured with recycled plastic. When secured in place, the sheets provide stabilization to shorelines, levees, berms and terracing.

In addition, smaller strips of matrix with vegetation already on them are secured in place at mean tide. The vegetation provides immediate erosion protection from constant wave action. As the vegetation grows and spreads, it creates a living shoreline. The matrix is lightweight, easy to install and requires minimal heavy equipment.

Martin Ecosystems, manufacturer of the system, has contracted professor Chunyan Li, of the LSU School of the Coast and Environment, to conduct an 18-month study of the effectiveness of the Vegetated EcoMatrix installed at the Buras Boat Harbor.

“While large-scale projects are important, the parish is also executing smaller projects that have significant benefits as well. The Buras marina shoreline protection offers a good example of this,” Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said.

“From the standpoint of function and protection, this project serves as a buffer against wind-driven waves that have eroded marshes adjacent to the back levee,” he said. “This system provides protection to the back levee that the adjacent marshes used to provide. The design uses a variety of methods and products to achieve the overall project goals.”

P.J. Hahn, director of coastal zone management for the parish, said the project “will serve as a testing ground for some of the products to see what works best in this unique environment. This will put the parish in a position to show state and federal agencies the parish’s initiative, which will possibly aid in future funding opportunities.”

Unlike most coastal restoration projects, Hahn noted, “this project is easily accessible to the public; it can be seen from the marina.”