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Mississippi River water flows into the Bonnet Carre Spillway the day after it is opened due to high water concerns, in Norco, La., Friday, March 9, 2018. The water is diverted to Lake Ponchartrain.

Despite its name, Lake Pontchartrain is not technically a lake. Its connection to the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico actually establishes the Lake Pontchartrain Basin as an estuarine system — one of the largest in the United States. From rural farming communities to highly urban regions, the basin supports a population of approximately 2.1 million people and countless species of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and plants.

Our Basin comprises over 10,000 square miles of land in 16 Louisiana parishes and four Mississippi counties. Its sprawling topography ranges from rolling woodlands in the north to coastal marshes in the south, with the 630-square-mile Lake Pontchartrain serving as its stately centerpiece.

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin is the heart of the region’s commercial and recreational fisheries and the center of southeastern Louisiana’s unique cultural heritage. The estuary’s habitats provide important ecological, cultural and economic benefits.

According to data from Restore America’s Estuaries, there are 56 million jobs in the fishing, tourism and recreational boating industries — all of which depend on healthy estuaries for their products and customers. Estuaries and coastal waters provide essential habitat for 75 percent of America's commercial fish catch and 80-90 percent of the recreational fish catch. In addition, estuaries protect landowners from floodwaters and act as storm buffers, guarding residential areas from hurricanes.

Proposed battery component factory in Manchac drawing community opposition

For 30 years, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation has worked to restore and protect our estuary for this and future generations. Although Lake Pontchartrain and its surrounding area continue to face environmental challenges, the lake and its resources have made a tremendous comeback.

Lake Pontchartrain’s preservation begins with each of us. All of our actions, both large and small, impact the lake’s health. There are many things we can do to make a difference. LPBF invites the public to help us continue the legacy of a clean and healthy Lake Pontchartrain by participating in Beach Sweep on Sept. 21. Beach Sweep is the biggest community cleanup in Southeastern Louisiana. Last year, volunteers picked up 58,665 pounds of trash from streets, catch basins and waterways around the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. For more information or to register, visit saveourlake.org/beachsweep.

Letters: Wetlands' water quality faces threat

As citizens of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, we are called to be actively involved in the lake’s preservation through our daily actions, in our communities and by voicing our desire to protect our valuable resources. By being informed citizens who are invested in efforts to preserve Lake Pontchartrain, we can make a difference.

Kristi Trail

executive director, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation

New Orleans