WASHINGTON, D.C. — Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank announced $102 million for three Louisiana projects in the Barataria and Terrebone basins to restore deteriorated wetlands and barrier island habitats along the state’s coast. These awards are funded by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) program.
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock and Weeks Marine have been contracted to restore beach, dune, and marsh on Pelican Island in Plaquemines Parish, and West Belle Pass barrier headland in Lafourche Parish, respectively. The state of Louisiana will receive the third award to rebuild marsh and construct an 11,000-foot-long protective ridge in the Bayou Dupont area in Jefferson Parish. The three projects will employ local citizens and generate further economic benefits for local businesses and coastal communities.
"If one block of New York City disappeared every hour, the nation would be outraged. Well, Louisiana loses a football field of wetlands every hour, which is crippling to the state and the nation. It affects our seafood supply, gas and oil reserves, and storm protection. Reversing this trend is a critical national priority, which is why it’s my fight,” Rep. Cedric Richmond said. “This is also why these grant announcements are so critical. I am pleased that Acting Secretary Blank and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Department of Commerce recognize the importance of New Orleans area coastal restoration efforts.”
Currently, Louisiana accounts for nearly 71 percent of U.S. fisheries landings by weight from the Gulf of Mexico. Many species of finfish, shrimp, and crab depend on the wetlands of the Barataria Basin for habitat during their life cycles. But with one of the highest rates of wetlands loss in the world, the Louisiana coastline has deteriorated extensively over the last 80 years, losing more than 420 square miles of wetlands to open water in the Barataria Basin alone.
These losses are largely the result of long-term, man-made changes, including the construction of levees, which have cut off the natural flow of nourishing sediments.
Although the area sustained damage as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, the three projects in Bayou Dupont, Pelican Island and West Belle Pass were designed prior to the spill and are intended to address long-standing issues rather than the direct repercussions of the spill.
Restoring the wetlands and barrier islands will also increase protection for Louisiana’s people and property, as well as one of America’s richest fisheries. By absorbing hurricane storm surge, rebuilt wetland and barrier island areas will help protect Orleans and Jefferson parishes, two of the top-five most densely populated counties in the Gulf coastal zone.