By David Jacobs | The Center Square
The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is moving forward on a $200 million project to revitalize a 45,000-acre swamp forest.
The RESTORE Council, which oversees the use of Clean Water Act fines stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, agreed to dedicate $130 million to the project, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday. The council includes leaders of five Gulf Coast states and six federal agencies.
The “cornerstone project” in the state’s coastal restoration plan has been in the works for two decades, CPRA Chairman Chip Kline said. Previous funding sources include state surpluses and money obtained through the federal Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, he said.
The project will reconnect Maurepas Swamp, the state’s second-largest swamp forest, with the Mississippi River, redirecting up to 2,000 cubic feet of freshwater, sediment and nutrients per second to replenish the swamp.
“The Maurepas Swamp is not just an amazing and beautiful swamp and Wildlife Management Area, but it is also a crucial, natural buffer between hurricane winds and storm surge,” Edwards said. “If we let this swamp continue to die off we would be putting many large communities in this region at increased risk. The protection and restoration of the Maurepas Swamp is essential to our survival and way of life in southern Louisiana.”
The new funds are now in the RESTORE Council-Selected Restoration Component, known as “Bucket 2,” Edwards’ office said. The “River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp” is the largest project the RESTORE Council has advanced out of Bucket 2, which is dedicated for coastal area projects that restore and protect natural resources on a large scale. The dollars will be made available for future funding and budgeting once the project accomplishes all engineering, design, and permitting requirements.
Kline said the state and its partners have completed eight construction projects using funds resulting from the 2010 oil spill and have 41 more projects underway.
Project plans include building three culverts in the Mississippi River Levee near Garyville. A new two-mile conveyance channel will flow into the existing Hope Canal which will be enhanced with small earthen levees for the final 3.5 miles into the Maurepas Swamp outfall area just north of I-10.
Other project features include road and railroad crossings, pipeline and utility crossings, and outfall management features such as gaps in canal spoil banks and low-level weirs on certain bayous to help retain and distribute water throughout the swamp.
Construction is expected to take about two years and will not disrupt traffic flow on I-10 or other roadways, and project features will not impede storm water drainage, state officials said.