Roadside Attraction: A coastal project hugs the I-10 west of Kenner
Dredging project aims to restore nearly 1,500 acres of the LaBranche Wetlands
ST. CHARLES PARISH, La. (WVUE) - A $60-million dredging project aims to recreate nearly 1,500 acres of tidal-influenced marsh along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
In the LaBranche Wetlands along the I-10 in St. Charles Parish, crews have set up containment dykes that act as temporary levees to prepare the project.
“We’re building containment dykes to help us confine the material,” explains Michael Nichols of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Over the next year-and-a-half, motorists traveling on the interstate will get a front-row seat to the work.
“Most coastal projects that we do are really far on the coast or some remote area,” said Jessica Diez, project manager for the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. “This one is right off the I-10.”
A dredge will draw material from the lake, which will be delivered by pipe to form the new land.
“We want to try to mimic natural features in a natural marsh,” Nichols said.
COAST IN CRISIS
The LaBranche Wetlands were a healthy, tidal-influenced marsh and swampy area until man changed the plumbing.
Drainage canals dug to build a railroad line, and later the I-10, allowed salt water to invade the mostly freshwater wetlands.
“Then in 1965, Hurricane Betsy came through and pushed a big wall of salt water into this area - further degraded the marsh,” Diez said.
The salt killed many of the cypress trees and converted almost 4,000 acres of marsh to open water.
Funding for the project comes through the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, federal legislation enacted in 1990 to fund construction of coastal wetlands restoration projects.
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