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Sunday, March 24, 2019

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Leeville marsh creation project passes major hurdle

Leeville marsh creation project passes major hurdle

Leeville received good news recently when a proposed marsh creation and protection project to its east passed a major hurdle toward final review under the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA).

CWPPRA is federal legislation signed into law in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush which provides funding for restoration projects in coastal states.

Since its enactment, CWPPRA boasts that 204 coastal restoration or protection projects have been authorized in Louisiana, benefiting over 97,401 acres with cost-effective plans for creating, restoring, protecting, or enhancing coastal wetlands.

Leeville’s benefit would come under the proposal titled the “East Leeville Marsh Creation and Nourishment Project”, which was recommended by CWPPRA’s Technical Committee at their Priority Project voting session in Baton Rouge.

The project which has been under review and modification for about two years, now seeks to re-establish an arc of wetlands to the east of Leeville, along the north side of Southwestern Canal, Lake Jesse, and the west side of South Lake.

In the project’s description, hydraulically mined sediment from a borrow source in Little Lake west of Leeville will be pumped to the site. Additionally, 50% of the created marsh acres would be planted with smooth cord grass to help stabilize the areas.

The project goal is to create approximately 352 acres and nourish 130 acres of saline marsh east of Leeville.
The fully funded construction cost estimate for the East Leeville project range is $30 to $35 million.

Janet Rhodus of Launch Leeville, the non-profit entity which nominated the project, said it is the first substantial restoration project in the Leeville area.

“Leeville has never had a CWPPRA or any other restoration project. We must secure the fragile barriers on the east side of Leeville,” she said.

“Without the stabilization of the shorelines near the intersections of Bayou Lafourche, the Southeast, and Southwest Canals, catastrophic land loss can be expected”, said Rhodus.

At the same committee selection meeting, another Lafourche Parish project was also recommended—the Caminada Headlands Back Barrier Marsh Restoration, Increment #2 Project—nominated by the Greater Lafourche Port Commission.

This project seeks to restore shoreline in the area south of LA Hwy. 1 between Belle Pass and Caminada Pass and includes the areas in and around Bay Champagne and to the east and west of Bayou Moreau along the coast.

This area was ravaged by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, and Tropical Storm Fay when breaches in the shoreline, which remained open for an extended period of time, allowed sediment to run out into open water.

The Back Barrier Project will cost about $30 million to complete and, like East Leeville, is subject to review by the full CWPPRA task force.

According to Lafourche Parish Administrator Archie Chiasson, East Leeville and Back Barrier projects will now go to the design phase, but there are other hurdles.

“They will have to compete again for actual construction funding in the next year or two. There are no guarantees that the project(s) will actually be built since it will depend on what the design work shows and the available funding when it comes back up for a vote,” Chaisson said.

A final recommendation on the two projects could come as early as January 2016.