One year after Hurricane Ida, Irish Bayou neighbors push to rebuild lost wetlands
Residents see the marsh near their homes rapidly deteriorate
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - At the foot of the Twin Spans Bridge, where U.S. Highway 11 flies over Interstate 10, life in New Orleans takes on a different pace.
“It’s a way of life that I personally enjoy,” said Richard Bruno, a homeowner in Irish Bayou.
While Irish Bayou seems a world away from city life, the small community actually lies within New Orleans city limits.
However, Irish Bayou also sits outside the metro area’s $14.5 billion hurricane protection levees built following Hurricane Katrina.
“It’s so obvious a lot of land is being lost and that’s hurtful,” Bruno said.
Bruno and two neighbors, Nick Stoltz and A.E. Briede, have been friends for half a century. Stoltz’s parents purchased land in Irish Bayou in the 1970s.
“We’ve seen drastic changes,” Stoltz said. “From my front porch, I can watch the marsh with each storm getting smaller and smaller and our protection getting less and less.”
Like much of South Louisiana, the marsh around Irish Bayou has eroded significantly in recent decades.
“If you go online and look at the satellite imagery, you can see this was mud, muck, and grass. It was land,” Briede said.
“It has just left so fast we can’t even tell where we are when we’re in the cut anymore,” Briede said.
Yet, just down the road, the federal government installed rocks to protect the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.
That little barrier, a couple of feet above the water in medium tide, knocks down everyday tides and wave action, enough to protect the marsh just to the south of Irish Bayou.
“Hopefully, we can do something before we lose much more land,” Bruno said.
For the past year, they’ve been pushing for their own protection, a project to extend the rocks, or some kind of restoration.
They hope to be included in the next version of the state’s Coastal Master Plan, the blueprint for Louisiana’s restoration efforts due out next year.
“The thing that local neighbors have is that really detailed knowledge of what’s happening on that day-to-day basis” said Kristi Trail, Executive Director of the Pontchartrain Conservancy, which has helped point the neighbors in the right direction as they try to get the attention of state coastal officials.
“I love to see it,” Trail said. “I wish all communities would be as engaged as the Irish Bayou Community.”
Trail notes that point of land actually provides a degree of storm protection for the metro area.
While that could help make the case for a restoration project, many hurdles remain.
“Coastal restoration, marsh restoration, swamp restoration, they’re pretty high dollar,” Trail said. “We’re talking about working from water, securing dredges.”
That can easily run into the millions of dollars.
The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will hold a series of public meetings this fall to gather input about the 2023 master plan.
“I’d just like to keep the land, keep it like it is so we can pass it on to our families so they can enjoy what we’re enjoying,” Bruno said.
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