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Louisiana Barrier Island RestorationóCombating one of the Highest Rates of Wetland Loss in the World

September 27, 2011

Today NOAA announced $102 million in construction funds for three projects that will restore deteriorated wetlands and barrier island habitats along the Louisiana’s coast. The projects were funded through our Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) program.

We contracted with Great Lakes Dredge and Dock and Weeks Marine to restore beach, dune, and marsh on Pelican Island and West Belle Pass barrier headland. The state of Louisiana will hold the contract on the third project, rebuilding marsh and constructing an 11,000-foot-long protective ridge in the Bayou Dupont area. The projects will create local jobs and generate further economic benefits for local businesses and coastal communities.

More than 70 percent of the fish and shellfish caught in the Gulf of Mexico come from Louisiana. And the wetlands of Barataria Basin—where two of the projects are located—provide habitat for many of those species, including finfish, shrimp, and crab.

With one of the highest rates of wetland loss in the world, however, the Louisiana coastline has deteriorated over the last 80 years. It has lost more than 420 square miles of wetlands to open water in the Barataria Basin. These losses are largely the result of long-term, man-made changes to the landscape, including the construction of levees, which have cut off the natural flow of nourishing sediments to the wetlands.

Restoring the wetlands and barrier islands will also increase protection for Louisiana’s people and property.  By absorbing hurricane storm surges, rebuilt wetland and barrier island areas will help protect two of the top five most densely populated parishes in the Gulf coastal zone (Orleans and Jefferson).  Restoring West Belle Pass barrier island will also provide protection for Port Fourchon, which is one of America’s largest energy transport nodes. Eighteen percent of the entire nation’s energy supply flows through the port.

This area sustained damage as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, but the projects were designed prior to the spill.

These three projects continue NOAA’s long-term investment in the Louisiana coastline through the CWPPRA program.  Since 1990, CWPPRA has designed and funded 151 coastal restoration and protection projects benefiting more than 110,000 acres in Louisiana.

A lo'i field in Hawai'i

Work underway at an earlier restoration project in Barataria Basin.