Wetlands being rebuilt in Plaquemines via privately funded project

Wetlands being rebuilt in Plaquemines via privately funded project
Published: Oct. 14, 2015 at 9:45 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 15, 2015 at 9:27 PM CDT
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PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LA (WVUE) - It's a first of it's kind project, just below Belle Chasse.

Dozens of acres of new wetlands are being created in an area, that was once thriving, thanks to a unique new approach that could be implemented in other damaged coastal areas.

It took thousands of years to build and just over 100 to disappear, but building it back won't happen overnight.

"When it comes out of the pipe, an excavator spreads it away, so it doesn't clog the pipe itself," said George Howard with 'Restoration Systems'.

River sediment must be scraped off of the bottom with huge dredges like the Florida, then pumped five miles under roads and over the same levees blamed for choking off wetlands in order to  recreate them.

"It's not a quick process by any means," said wetlands consultant Greg Fell.

Nor is it cheap. The project costs about $200,000 each day, and the company doing the work hasn't received a dime from a mitigation bank designed to take in money from companies that destroy wetlands and use that money for projects like this one, below Jesuit Bend on the west bank of Plaquemines Parish. Restoration Systems, and Great Lakes Dredging are now awaiting reimbursement.

"Formally, we haven't received our mitigation banking credit, so we are at risk there," Howard said.

The dredge and the pipeline work 24-7, pumping new earth into Plaquemines Parish at the rate of 40,000 cubic yards a day. The pipes have been laid, there's plenty of land to rebuild, and project proponents hope to pump more sediment, as far as 15 miles away, into the depleted marshes of  the northern Barataria system.

"We'd like to do a lot more of this work, we've learned a lot in this process," Howard said.

And there's another bonus. This land will be preserved as wetlands forever, and will never be used commercially again. Last year, the land appeared as open water, after being devastated by farming and other activities.

"It's been disturbed by cattle and agriculture, and a variety of different insults to the ecology that we're setting right now," Howard said.

Just like the meter is running on Louisiana's wetlands, so is the meter for a company that hasn't received a dime for this project.

"We're in the final phase of being approved, out of the 240 acres we're restoring we will get credit for that," Fell said.

If all goes well, this company believes it's setting up a road map to speed up coastal restoration projects in a state where the need is great.

When all said and done, the Jesuit Bend project will have pumped 1.3 million cubic yards of river sand into the marsh. Restoration Systems now waits for approval from seven different agencies, in order to receive mitigation credits to cover their costs.

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