Lake Pontchartrain dredging project worries property owners

Residents concerned about Zydeco Ridge project

(WVUE) - "Just look at it. This is my home," says Mike Fischer.

Fischer has lived along Treasure Isle for more than 60 years, but he worries his property will be in jeopardy when the Army Corps begins dredging Lake Pontchartrain. It's called the Zydeco Ridge Project.

The Army Corps says it's a mitigation project that must be done to restore the marsh in the Big Branch National Wildlife Reserve.

"Three-quarters of a mile off the shoreline, we'll be dredging material from the lake into a 6-mile pipe that goes into the wildlife reserve," says Rene Poche of the Army Corp.

While the Corps says they've done everything required to inform and receive input from the public, property owners say they learned of the project 3 weeks ago.

"We have two subdivisions, probably 150 homes total right here, and no one heard about it," says E.J. Lamule.

Now the project is slated to begin later this month, but it's the spot where the dredging will take place that has property owners upset.

"That sandbar out there serves a purpose for not only us who live here. It breaks the waves. It is a barrier island just like the barrier islands protect the Mississippi Gulf Coast," says Fischer.

An aerial view shows what Fischer is talking about. Part of the sandbar, or shole according to the Army Corps, is inside the dredging area.

The Corps, though, says the shole is in a secondary site and once 3.2 million cubic yards of material is removed, the dredging will stop.

"We're going further out in the area, taking barrow, and then working our way that way. We're not even sure if we'll need that area," says Poche.

Residents, though, say the sandbar acts as a barrier island, protecting them from storm surge and they believe dredging anywhere around it will cause problems.

"It's going to cave in," says Fischer.

While it's mainly about protection, property owners say the project will also destroy recreational activity they enjoy every summer.

"You can bring lawn chairs out. You can sit in 2 and a half feet of water. I mean that's besides the fishing part of it," says Lamule.

While the Army Corps commenting period is over, they're hoping change will come before work begins.

"If they can get the 3.2 million cubic yards in that primary area, then I would say move further out rather than closer in," says Lamule.

The Army Corps says it's now collecting data from previous studies to address the property owners concerns.

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