NOAA 99-R1412
Contact: Gordon Helm


$114,000 Project To Ultimately Restore 2,400 Acres of La. Wetlands

The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Restoration Center, has awarded a $114,000 contract to C.F. Bean, Inc. of Belle Chasse, La., to complete a wetlands restoration project that will help nourish the extensive delta wetlands in Plaquemines Parish.

The Mississippi River delta, one of the hallmark symbols of Louisiana's rich natural heritage, has been deteriorating for decades. Natural and man-made alterations to the Mississippi River have changed the hydrologic cycle of the river and wetland building process. The construction of levees to protect commercial shipping lanes has reduced natural sedimentation and fresh water flooding, causing deterioration of wetlands.

"This relatively inexpensive project utilizes proven dredging technology to create new wetlands while protecting the navigation of commerce through the Mississippi River," said Penny Dalton, director of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. "Nourishing and replenishing wetlands also improves fish habitat essential for healthy Louisiana marine fisheries."

NOAA Fisheries habitat specialists working through the restoration center coordinate the planning, construction and monitoring of wetlands projects such as the Delta-wide Crevasses Project as part of the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, commonly known as the Breaux Act.

"Any time we have the opportunity to combine the river and our human ingenuity to create and sustain wetlands, we should do so," said Jack Caldwell, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. "This partnership with NOAA is once again taking an innovative approach to sustaining wetlands that we so desperately need to protect."

The Delta-wide Crevasses Project is designed to promote the formation of new freshwater marshes by constructing artificial crevasses. Crevasses are breaks in the levee that allow the river to deposit sediments into adjacent shallow bays. This method mimics the natural process of crevasse formation that was responsible for building much of the Mississippi River delta. By opening and maintaining up to 30 crevasses over the next 20 years, approximately 2,400 acres of marsh will be created by the project.

C.F. Bean Inc. will create new and maintain existing man-made crevasses from the main river channels into marsh areas, allowing sedimentation, stabilization, and vegetation.

The project is located in the Pass-A-Loutre Wildlife Management Area and the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, covering more than 110,000 acres of wetlands, on the Mississippi River Delta.

The Mississippi River delta plays an important role in providing extensive wetlands habitat for Gulf of Mexico fisheries, and serves as the main artery of the Mississippi flyway for waterfowl migrating from the Arctic to Central America.

The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act funds habitat restoration programs on a 90 -10 split with the state of Louisiana. The five federal members and the state comprise the Breaux Act team working to reverse the loss of approximately 25 square miles of wetlands per year in Louisiana.