Dredge rebuilds Lafourche marshes on free trial run

Golden Meadow, La. - Compared to some of the big offshore dredges, the machine looks downright diminutive, but the Amphibex 400 is quickly proving small dredges can do big things.

"It got here last Monday on the 14th so it's been running for about a week," says Lafourche Parish Administrator Archie Chaisson.  "The estimates are they've created about three to five acres of marsh in some shallow water."

The levee districts in north and south Lafourche Parish along with the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District worked together to bring the dredge from Canada.

The company that makes it offered the levee districts a free trial run if they paid to transport it.

The levee districts put $150,000 towards the project and now the machine is building marshes behind a park in Golden Meadow.

Levee district officials expect the dredge to build about 10 acres of new wetlands during the trial run. That type of project would normally cost more than $300,000.

The company uses its dredges to rebuild marshes and clear out waterways all over the world.  But only four machines are currently in use in the United States.

"We're really the incubator for this little machine," says Chaisson.  "It's worked in parts of Canada, it's worked in areas out in Europe and Saudi Arabia but it's never been used in the Gulf Coast to save us like it's doing now."

If the dredge works as it appears to, the levee districts have an option to rent it for a longer trial.  Lafourche Parish is trying to partner with private companies to pay for that.

Parish officials say Hurricane Isaac chewed away at least six feet of marsh around the levee in Golden Meadow and more is disappearing all the time.

Even if the Amphibex dredge only creates a few new acres of land during its time in Lafourche Parish, that land is badly needed.