Hurricane Ida dealt a serious blow to Louisiana’s “floating marsh”

Camp owners and fishermen in Lafourche Parish see significant damage
Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 10:52 PM CDT
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CUT OFF, LA. (WVUE) - Kevin McVey surveys debris and marsh grass scattered around the Clovelly Farms boat launch near Cut Off.

“A lot of the marsh has been ripped up and moved away,” said McVey. Who has spent countless weekends at his nearby camp.

Hurricane Ida ripped another camp, which belonged to his brother-in-law, from its 5/8 inch steel cables and drove it a mile into the marsh.

McVey said that camp had been in the family for 45-50 years, but “there’s nothing you can do” to save it.

Satellite imagery shows significant portions of the marsh on the north and western sides of Barataria Bay appear to have been lost to Ida’s surge and waves.

Based on debris and the water line in his camp, McVey estimates the surge was about 13 feet.

“This was solid marsh,” said retired teacher Joey Guidroz, pointing to areas of open water.

“When I said solid marsh, I’m talking about marsh that you could walk over or ride a four-wheeler through,” Guidroz said. “Look at it now. Mother Nature spoke.”

Guidroz lost virtually all of his 1,200-acre duck lease.

“If we have two acres left, we have a lot,” Guidroz said.

In the two months since the storm, he has been unable to locate one camp, which has disappeared entirely.

In places where there had been thick vegetation, winds and currents push remnants of marsh in mostly open water. The biggest disruption appears to be to “flotant,” or floating marsh generally not connected to the water bottom.

Large sections of the marsh have been displaced or pushed onto shorelines and levees.

Guidroz laments the loss of more land as being about more than simply the landscape.

“When we lose a section of marsh-like this, we lose our culture, man. Going to the camp, making supper, stuff like that.”

Geologists caution that satellite imagery can be deceiving, capturing reflections off marsh grass which can be mistaken for open water. As waves and tides push sediment in coming months, parts of the marsh could reform.

However, the U.S. Geological Survey said damage from Ida appears to have been significant.

“Now, we’re at the mercy of the Gulf,” Guidroz said. “How will that change our salinity level, how will it change our shrimping, our redfish, our ducks, our everything?”

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