ST. BERNARD PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Contractors for the state are close to wrapping up work on a demonstration project for a "living shoreline" - a combination of concrete breakwaters and oyster reefs intended to fight wave erosion.
"We need to try to do something," said St. Bernard Parish Councilman Manuel Montelongo. "We're losing land at an alarming rate."
The state is trying the unconventional on a 3.1 mile demonstration project in Breton Sound extending from Eloi Point toward Bayou la Loutre. Workers are maneuvering four different types of barriers into place, including concrete cylinders of various shapes.
Already, St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis notes the breakwaters - mostly below the water level in high tide - still block energy from the wave action.
"You have a normal half-a-foot wave action over here and it changes on the other side," McInnis said as he surveyed the work.
As a secondary goal, designers hope to stimulate oyster growth in this area, some of the most productive oyster grounds in the country. They believe oysters will naturally take hold of the barriers, providing in the process a more natural form of shoreline protection.
"We want this to be a living shoreline for many years," said Michael Ellis, executive director of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. "We don't want to have to come back and replace the rock."
The state is comparing four different designs for the breakwaters to see which is most effective. Installing the 9,000 man-made structures will cost an estimated $12 million, funded through the federal Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP).
Once the state has evaluated the results, it will begin work on a second, larger phase intended to build an additional 12 miles of shoreline protection. The $50 million to $60 million project, funded through fines from the 2010 Gulf oil spill, will create another 12 miles of living shoreline.