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Work begins on Louisiana’s largest-ever marsh creation project

2,700 acre project near Lake Borgne will move more than three Superdomes worth of mud
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 11:03 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Contractors for the state have begun pumping mud from a dredge two miles into Lake Borgne onto the shoreline near Shell Beach in St. Bernard Parish, a $61 million project which ranks as Louisiana’s largest marsh creation yet.

In recent weeks, they have piled material onto four-foot high, circular-shaped dikes to create containment areas for the mud.

“It’s just a levee built all the way around the project,” explained Joe Guillory, a civil engineer with the company, DDG. “We’re going to pump inside, fill the entire area.”

Contractors will pump mud into areas shown in green along the shoreline of Lake Borne.
Contractors will pump mud into areas shown in green along the shoreline of Lake Borne.(Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority | CPRA)

The work, paid for with fine and settlement money from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, takes place in an area where the marsh has badly degraded in recent decades.

Local officials blame the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the shipping channel constructed in the 1950s, for much of the loss.

“There’s sort of one thing you can point to in this region and that is the MRGO that destroyed the swamps that were in the area and converted everything to marsh,” said Bren Haase, Executive Director for the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Over the next couple years, contractors plan to move approximately 13-million cubic yards of material, enough to fill the Superdome roughly three times.

Haase said that will provide a speed bump, adding a layer of defense against storm surge for the levees built around New Orleans and surrounding parishes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“The more land I have between me and Gulf of Mexico as a hurricane is approaching the coast, the better I feel,” Haase said.

St. Bernard Parish government leaders anticipate roughly $1 billion in work there over the next decade.

“It’s a significant amount of work that’s going to be done here in St. Bernard to protect our way of life,” said Parish President Guy McInnis.

On the project site, workers confront some unusual challenges, including requirements in federal law that they protect bottlenose dolphins from wandering into the construction area.

For their solution, they turned to oil field boom used in the containment of spills.

“We came up with the idea of using oil boom basically like a quick pasture gate,” Guillory said. “You come in, you close it up, dolphins can’t get through.”

They also must account for rising seas.

“Contractors are pumping to a height of 3 1/2 feet.

While the land will de-water and settle to about 1 1/2 feet, that is still higher than the surrounding marsh.

“We’re accounting for sea level rise to occur,” Guillory said. “If we didn’t this marsh would be inundated.”

The project has a design lifespan of 20 years.

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