December 29, 2023
In 2023, the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority brought some of the largest, most transformational projects in history to life across our coast.
The past year saw the completion of eight projects, valued at $227 million, and the beginning of construction on 15 projects, valued at over $3 billion. Throughout the year, CPRA improved over 10 miles of levee, benefitted over 6,600 acres of marsh, and pumped over 22 million cubic yards of sediment.
CPRA and its partners worked on projects ranging from marsh creation and environmental restoration to recreational use and storm damage protection. Here is a review of some of the progress we made along Louisiana’s coast in 2023!
The Spanish Pass Project restored over six miles of ridge west of Venice, La. and built over 1,670 acres of marsh with nearly 11 million cubic yards of sediment, making it the largest marsh and ridge creation project by both acres built and volume dredged.
This project involved dredging crevasses in South Pass and using sediment to create approximately 5 acres of nesting island for native bird species.
This hydrologic restoration project located west of the Atchafalaya River included the construction of 25 indented gaps, which help increase the flow of water into Henderson Lake and improve the water and habitat quality of the lake.
This NOAA-led 1,200-acre project restored land lost from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and supports a diverse population of fish and other marine wildlife. CPRA joined NOAA and other partners to complete one of the largest dredging projects ever constructed in Louisiana with 8.4 million cubic yards of sediment dredged from the Mississippi River and pumped over 13 miles to the project location.
This project involved the construction of approximately 7,500 linear feet of foreshore rock dike along the eastern bank of Freshwater Bayou near Coles Bayou in Vermilion Parish to reduce bank erosion and subsequent degradation of the interior marshes.
This project used breakwater structures to provide 11 miles of shoreline protection southeast of the Biloxi Wildlife Management Area. The structures are designed to furnish protection against wave erosion for the fragile marsh and to offer ideal surfaces for oysters to settle and grow. The resulting oyster reefs are anticipated to enhance the productivity of a variety of species and other oyster reefs in the estuary—more broadly supporting Louisiana’s oyster industry, which leads the nation with $35 million annual dockside sales.
This first-of-its-kind project is widely regarded as the most ambitious environmental restoration project in Louisiana’s history.
The project will harness the land-building power of the Mississippi River to build and sustain up to 26,000 acres of wetlands in the Barataria Basin.
Project features include a controlled gate structure through the river’s levee, a manmade channel, and outfall structure in the basin. Construction is anticipated to take over five years to complete and is projected to produce an economic impact of nearly $1.5 billion in sales and approximately 12,400 jobs in the region.
The project will use nine rock breakwaters to provide another layer of protection to the Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) levee system that safeguards New Orleans. The project will also involve filling 22 acres between the breakwaters and the levee with sediment, aquatic vegetation, and 20 feet of open water to form a “blueway” for kayakers and canoers.
Construction is underway on the Lake Borgne Marsh Creation project, which, upon completion in 2024, will be the largest marsh creation project by acreage ever built by CPRA. The project will restore the deteriorating marsh along the lake’s south shore using 13 million cubic yards of dredged material to create and nourish approximately 2,770 acres of new land.
The project is adjacent to the area where more than 155 miles of shoreline were damaged by a 2006 oil spill from the CITGO Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex that released an estimated 2.7 million gallons of oil and oily wastewater into the Indian Marais waterway.
Material dredged from the nearby CSC as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) maintenance dredging event will be used to create approximately 395 acres of new marsh.
The project will re-establish a part of the historic Long Point Bayou channel and create tidal creeks to provide tidal exchange into and out of the marsh creation area. The new marsh created by this project will provide vital habitat for a variety of organisms, including red drum, brown and white shrimp, pelicans, gulls, rails, and migrating waterfowl.
This project will create 1,471 acres of emergent wetlands and nourish 148 acres of existing wetlands using dedicated dredged material from Lake Pontchartrain. Construction of over 54,000 linear feet of containment dikes will be complete by the end of 2023 and pumping of dredged fill material is scheduled to begin in April of 2024. The project’s primary goals are to restore marsh that has been converted to open water and provide storm buffer protection to I-10, the region’s primary westward hurricane evacuation route.
The project will restore 253 acres of brackish marsh using sediment dredged from Lakes Pontchartrain and St. Catherine, stabilize the shoreline to reduce erosion and interior marsh loss and maintain the integrity of the East Orleans Landbridge. Concrete mats will be used along open water-facing portions of the three marsh creation areas to enhance over 15,000 linear feet of shoreline.
Over the summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and CPRA signed a partnership agreement for the $6.5 billion Southwest Coastal Louisiana hurricane and storm damage risk reduction and coastal ecosystem restoration project.
The project, which was authorized in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016, will utilize federal funds to elevate an estimated 800-1000 of the overall 3,462 residential structures identified in the 2016 Final Feasibility Study. Twenty-seven structures have cleared all assessments and are ready to be raised with 17 in Vermillion Parish and 10 in Calcasieu Parish. Structure elevations are expected to begin in June 2024.
Efforts to restore Bayou Lafourche and its pump station have been underway since the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav in 2008. The new pump station will triple the capacity for freshwater entering the bayou protecting nearly 10 percent of Louisiana’s drinking water supply while nourishing over 85,000 acres of marshland. This project is a crucial step in protecting the drinking water supply for Ascension, Assumption, Lafourche, and Terrebonne parishes, ensuring that residents have access to clean and safe water for years to come.
The Lower Lafitte project will include the construction of 1.5 miles of new structural wall tidal protection along the bank of Bayou Barataria and modifications of 1.5 miles of levee along the Pen. Protective structures will be built to a 7.5-foot elevation and will include 3 swing gates and 1 roller gate. The Lower Lafitte project will provide additional protection from a 10-year rainfall or tidal event flood for the community of Lower Lafitte, which encompasses approximately 192 acres of land with residential and commercial structures.
In November, Gov. John Bel Edwards joined officials from Nicholls State University and CPRA to break ground on a coastal center on the Nicholls campus.
The coastal center will conduct research primarily focused on the Atchafalaya River and the Terrebonne Basin and will include labs where Nicholls students and scientists from across the state, including those from CPRA, will collaborate and advance research to repair and rebuild the state’s receding coastline.
In addition to research and development, the Nicholls Coastal Center will also house a 5,000-square foot, publicly accessible coastal exhibit area aimed at teaching visitors about the Atchafalaya Basin and the research that will inform decisions to restore coastal wetlands and protect our communities.