Could Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas become one?

Could Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas become one?

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A coalition of environmental groups today called on the state of Louisiana to prioritize projects in the wide-ranging plan for coastal restoration and storm protection.

Restore the Mississippi River Delta chose 17 projects in the 2017 Coastal Master Plan, which it believes will stretch the available dollars.

The groups point to critical pieces of real estate, such as the Manchac land bridge, which  separates Lake Pontchartrain from Lake Maurepas.

Scientists warn that unless the state acts to restore the land bridge, the worst-case scenario for sea level rise and subsidence wipes out the areas of marsh and swamp that protect communities far inland today.

"Places that don't consider themselves coastal communities would be coastal communities and would be more imperiled than they are now," said Alisha Renfro, a coastal scientist with the National Wildlife Federation.

Restore the Mississippi River Delta warned the loss of the land bridge would poss a threat to both sides of the lake in Greater New Orleans and even to the southern portions of Greater Baton Rouge.

"That's going to happen unless we do the kinds of projects that we're talking about here today."

The list of 17 projects includes: four diversions of various sizes that would feed fresh water from Mississippi River into the Manchac Swamp.

Among other highlighted projects:

The Golden Triangle Marsh Creation would restore, through dredging, land lost after the construction of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.  The restored marsh would be designed to buffer the recently constructed surge barrier, protecting populated areas around New Orleans and providing habitat for wildlife.

The New Orleans East Landbridge Restoration would guard a sliver of real estate that separates Lake Pontchartrain from Lake Borne.  Planners say the benefits would include knocking down storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain.

The Lower Breton Sediment Diversion along the east bank of the Mississippi River would aim to create marsh.  The project would most likely be located south of the east bank river levees.

The Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion farther upriver on the east bank of Plaquemines Parish would convey fresh water and sediment into deteriorating marshes.

The Breton Ridge Restoration would restore a section of wetlands and ridge stretching from Delacroix to Black Bay, buffering against storm surge and providing new habitat.

The Ama Diversion would feed sediment from the Mississippi into existing wetlands in the upper Barataria Basin.

The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, the largest of the diversions now in planning, would influence areas of marsh on the Plaquemines west bank south of Belle Chasse.

The Large Scale Barataria Marsh Creation project in Barataria Bay near Lafitte involves dredging and pumping new land by pipeline.  Future projects would build on marsh creation efforts that have already restored wetlands and ridges near Lafitte through the pumping of dredged material.

The Atchafalaya Sediment Diversion would pump fresh water into the marshes in southwest Terrebonne Parish.

The Terrebonne Ridge Restoration would be designed to restore the historic Mauvais Bois and Bayou Dularge Ridges through dredging in marshes that have rapidly converted to open water through salt water intrusion.

Hydrologic Restoration in the Calcasieu Ship Channel would isolate the channel through a network of dike and sill structures to limit salt water.

The Freshwater Bayou North Marsh Creation in Vermillion Parish would build around 9,000 acres of marsh by delivering sediment via pipeline from the Gulf of Mexico or the Freshwater Bayou Canal.  The area suffered heavily land loss in Hurricane Rita is 2005.

Fines and court settlements from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill will provide Louisiana with over $7 billion for coastal restoration.

While that far outpaces the state's available resources in the past, it leaves planners tens of billions of dollars short to complete the entire master plan.

"This is to try and take what money we have and put it on the most important projects, most immediately," said John Lopez, Director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation's Coastal sustainability program.

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