Louisiana works on a multi-million dollar plan to reclaim some of the wetlands Hurricane Ida destroyed

Last year’s storm devoured an estimated 106 square miles of marsh
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 4:47 PM CDT
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GALLIANO, LA (WVUE) - The sun bursts over the horizon just after 6 a.m. as charter boat captain Mike Guidry steers away from the dock in Galliano.

He points to a pole sitting in mostly open water a couple hundred yards in the distance.

“At one time, that pole right there was the only way to get in here. There was just enough land to pass the boat.”

Today, it is flanked by just a few patches of land, and mostly, open water.

Guidry knows these waters like a map is imprinted on his brain. Yet, in the days after Hurricane Ida tore up the marsh and rearranged the wetlands, he nearly got lost here.

“If you just get off a little bit from here, you’ll be running aground,” said Guidry, pointing to the dramatically-altered landscape follow the August 29, 2021 hurricane.

“My lifetime so far, this was all land where we’re sitting and it’s gone now,” said Guidry. “That’s open water. There’s no more buffer.”

The US Geological Survey has estimated Hurricane Ida destroyed 106 square miles of coast, much of it in Lafourche Parish.

“The next storm that we get hit ground zero, like what happened with this one, it’s gonna be worse,” Guidry said.

On the eastern side of Lafourche, in an area near Cutoff, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority hopes to restore some of the loss.

“The conventional wisdom was that it was relatively stable and that it would take some really bad things to happen for that not to be there,” said Bren Haase, CPRA Executive Director. “Unfortunately, Hurricane Ida was just that.”

Any recovery effort will be complicated by the nature of the lost marsh.

Much of it was flotant, a special form of marsh found in brackish or freshwater marshes which is not necessarily connected to the water bottom.

Pronounced “flow tawnt,” the marsh was also prevalent in the northwestern corner of Little Lake, which Ida blew apart with a surge and waves topping 13 feet.

The storm’s aftermath has exposed the shoreline, making it difficult for the recovery of flotant, which requires still waters to grow.

“There’s a lot known about it, but there’s no real way to go out there and recreate it yourself,” Haase said.

State lawmakers appropriated $4 million, which CPRA is using to design a shoreline restoration and marsh creation project.

The agency hopes to cobble together $70 million- $90 million from a variety of sources to build a higher ridge along the old shoreline of Little Lake, and an apron of marsh, to restore the calmer conditions that existed pre-Ida.

“That will, hopefully, be conducive for that marsh to recover,” Haase said.

Possible funding sources include grant money from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act.

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