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Work starts on $32M project to turn open water back to marsh

7 months 2 weeks 4 days ago Friday, February 05 2021 Feb 5, 2021 February 05, 2021 7:06 AM February 05, 2021 in News
Source: Associated Press
Generic image of Louisiana coastal wetlands Photo: Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act / Facebook

CAMERON, La. (AP) — Construction has begun on a $32 million project to bring back hundreds of acres of marsh to a part of southwest Louisiana where storms, sinking and other factors have turned thousands of acres to open water, the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said.

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock has begun building containment dikes north of Holly Beach to hold nearly 2.4 million cubic yards (1.8 million cubic meters) of sand dredged from the Gulf of Mexico and pumped more than 5 miles (8 kilometers) inland, according to a news release Thursday.

The new marsh will help protect the area, including more populous Calcasieu Parish, from hurricanes.

“One of our top priorities is to reinforce the natural buffer that exists in southwest Louisiana,” said authority Chairman Chip Kline. “These large marsh creation projects not only increase protection for the parishes immediately along the coast, but they add acreage between the land and the sea, pushing it further away from heavily populated areas further inland such as Lake Charles.

Kline said the 2020 hurricane season, which saw two storms slam southwest Louisiana within a matter of weeks, added a “sense of urgency to increase protection for residents.”

The Cameron Meadows Marsh Creation and Terracing project is designed to build more than 308 acres (125 hectares) of marsh. Another 11 acres (4.5 hectares) of new land will be terraced to slow down waves so sediment drops out, creating new land, rather than being washed away.

Several water control structures and protection measures will reduce saltwater intrusion on adjacent properties, the agency said.

Gradual sinking, or subsidence, from “rapid fluid and gas extraction beginning in 1931,” and storm surge and other damage from Hurricanes Rita and Ike are among factors that turned 7,000 acres (2,800 hectares) of marsh in that area to open water, according to a project fact sheet. Drought and salt water retention because of poor drainage from silted-in canals are among others, CPRA said.

Plans for 380 acres (154 hectares) of new marsh had to be scaled back to stay within the budget, said Andrew Beall, chief of the agency’s planning division.

About $27.2 million of the money is coming from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, with the remaining 15% from the state.

NOAA project manager Jennifer Smith said NOAA has funded 30 projects since 1990 under the coastal wetlands law, restoring more than 12,500 acres (5,060 hectares) of vulnerable coastline and helping to rebuild the resilience of coastal communities.

“We are always pleased to partner with CPRA because the success of these projects is making a real difference for the people of Louisiana,” Smith said.

The work should be completed this year, officials said.

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