The “Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Shoreline Stabilization and Restoration Project” — say it a few times because it could one day be the model for protecting marsh throughout Louisiana.
On Thursday, Dec. 10, the Stabilization Project was introduced to the media by the American Wetlands Foundation in the form of an on-site tour of the project along the Intracoastal Waterway just minutes from Larose.
Phase 1 of the project involves restoration of a one-mile stretch along the Gulf-facing side of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), an area where embankments have been lost to tidal surge, threatening freshwater marshes with saltwater intrusion and taking private lands bordering the canals. The entire project involves a four-mile section of the GIWW shoreline, with Phase 2 set to begin in 2016 on the north-facing side of the GIWW.
It is an effort by private landowners and donors like CITGO, Shell, Chevron, Ducks Unlimited, Community Coffee, the American Wetlands Foundation, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, along with the State of Louisiana and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, which all hope will be a model for the future.
Ethan Miller, member of the W. Alden Jones family who have owned Delta Farms since 1939, stood on the newly refurbished levee near Larose to demonstrate how the installation of a spongy plastic mat will one day keep the shoreline from washing away.
Miller noted that protecting the Intracoastal’s vast shoreline is not in the Louisiana Master Plan because of a fight between the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over jurisdiction.
“We’ve spent over a half million dollars trying to build this levee. It keeps eroding and eroding. If this works, I think it will have great implications for Louisiana. But realistically, we won’t know for six or seven years,” said Miller.
Just 100 yards ahead of the installation, shoreline which was built up by a bucket dredge only three weeks earlier and which is awaiting the project, has already lost over 15 feet of shoreline, cut by the waves and current of the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Shoreline Stabilization project seeks to eliminate that loss by installing a continuous mat and adding a top layer with living Roseau (a type of sod-forming grass commonly used as material for camouflaging duck blinds), hoping that the roots will reach down into the soil and secure the land underneath it.
This system of matting is the idea of Martin Ecosystems, who champion the use of recycled plastic bottles to create a matrix which looks like a giant scouring pad and which forms the base for growing vegetation.
Whereas in the past, landowners could not afford the prohibitive cost of securing their shores with traditional rock stabilization, the Martin Ecosystems concept costs six to seven times less to install.
Ted Falgout, one of the landowners on whose property Phase 2 of the project will take place, noted that this process costs about $100 per foot to install whereas the traditional rock stabilization method costs about $600-700 per foot.
“We were looking for a cheap method to protect shorelines, one which could also provide hurricane protection, which would be important to local communities like Larose. Then American Wetlands got involved, and here we are today,” said Falgout.
So far, about $1.5 million has been invested into the Stabilization Project. The project’s partners are hopeful that this innovative, cost-effective way of protecting shorelines has applicability across the Gulf Coast as the Intracoastal runs from Texas to Florida.
“The line of demarcation is the Intracoastal Waterway. Saltwater is all the way up to the Intracoastal. If we can keep that buffer, I think we will accomplish a lot,” said Falgout.
Said Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Chip Kline: “There is no one single solution to addressing the problems we have. This project is a prime example of what can happen when innovative ideas are put into practice.”
Posted on Fri, December 11, 2015
by Buster Avera Contributing Writer