Progress made in restoring 1,200 acres of coastal Plaquemines - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Progress made in restoring 1,200 acres of coastal marsh near Myrtle Grove

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Plaquemines Parish, La. -

State and federal coastal experts showed off on Wednesday the latest jewel in a crown of projects designed to counteract the ravages of coastal erosion.

The state's newest land mass is now growing at the rate of an acre a day, below Myrtle Grove.

It all starts at the bottom of the Mississippi river, at the source of what built most of Louisiana.

"You can't see what's taking place right here, it's all on the bottom. The cutter heads are dredging up all the sand and sediment, and it's sucking it up," said Chuck Perrodin with the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

The dredge's teeth, digging 75 feet below the Mississippi river's surface, plow up rich sediment to rebuild what Louisiana's lost over the last 100 years.

"You can suck it up, but then it will come back in and it's renewable," said Perrodin.

The river sand enters a pipeline that's carried over the levee and under Highway 23 below Myrtle Grove. From there it enters Jefferson Canal, and gets a boost from a massive pump.

Unlike a natural river diversion, sediment must be pushed through pipes with the help of huge pumps to help it reach its final destination.

"The theory is you get enough boosters, you can go where you want to go," said Barry Richard, CPRA.

It all ends up as new land in Plaquemines Parish, in spots where none has been seen for the past several decades.

A spigot, constantly on the move, creates more fresh Louisiana land along the badly-eroded shores of Lake Hermitage. The cost is about $45,000 an acre -- a bargain, compared to the $80,000-per-acre cost of some mitigation projects.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say not just any soil will do for this job -- but this stuff is perfect.  Taken from the middle of the Mississippi River, it eventually will replace 1,200 acres of wetlands depleted through coastal erosion, caused by a variety of factors.

"I think all this area that has had oil and gas removed... there's been some settling or subsidence related to removal of all that gas and oil," said Brad Inman with the Army Corps.

It is a massive task. The state's coastal master plan envisions similar projects across the state to rebuild hundreds of square miles lost over the last 100 years.

After the north side of Jefferson Canal is filled in between these berms, the dredge pipe will be moved to the south side to finish the job, sometime next year.

"When it's all said and done we will have created about a thousand acres," said Inman.

Another scarred landscape gets some salve, a roadmap for what many hope will be many more coastal salvage operations to come.

The majority of the $38 million Lake Hermitage restoration project is being paid for through the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration act. The state is pitching in 15 percent of the funding. The project should be completed by spring of next year.

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