Recycled plastic water bottles could help protect Louisiana's coastline

Plastic being used in coastal restoration

LAROSE, LA (WVUE) - Plastic mats that look a bit like thick Brillo Pads could help protect Louisiana's rapidly eroding shorelines, if a $1.2 million demonstration project proves successful.

The America's WETLAND Foundation and its partners, including Duck's Unlimited, showed off the first phase of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) Shoreline Stabilization and Restoration Project near Larose in Lafourche Parish.

The project calls for lining 4-miles of shoreline with a recycled plastic matrix material, which forms a base for plants to grow along the shoreline.

"The roso cane was brought in a couple days ago," said Ted Martin, owner and founder of Martin Ecosystems, the Baton Rouge-based company performing the work.  "You can see the roots that are growing from beneath the mat."

Phase One of the project is designed to fortify a mile long stretch of levee along Delta Farms near Larose.

"If it works, it'll just be a Godsend," said Ethan Miller, whose family owns Delta Farms.  "We'll save our protection levee."

Miller said the family has spent over half-a-million dollars in the last 8 years attempting to establish a workable levee.

The GIWW, stretching from Florida to Texas, is a superhighway of barge traffic for the southeastern part of the country.  However, the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have battled for years over maintenance, each denying it is their responsibility.

Neighbor Ted Falgout has watched as the waterway chewed away at the shoreline.

Falgout said, "the levee was probably 150 feet or so out into the Intracoastal" before the shoreline eroded.

It will take several months-- into the next growing season-- to determine whether the pilot project is working.  However, Sidney Coffee, senior advisor of the America's WETLAND Foundation, calls it a potential game changer.

"It can be replicated through the coastal area in other places that need strong shoreline protection,"  Coffee said.

The first mile of embankment stabilization is scheduled to be complete in coming weeks, with America's WETLAND, Ducks Unlimited, CITGO, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Community Coffee providing initial funding.

The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation awarded $250,000 to the Ducks Unlimited/AWF Partnership for the project's future phases.

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