Louisiana Advanced Record-Breaking Number of Coastal Restoration Projects in 2020 Despite Challenges

Photo Credit: Atchafalaya Rising

In spite of this year’s many challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and seven storms impacting the state, coastal restoration remained a priority for Louisiana in 2020. According to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), Louisiana advanced 112 coastal projects this year, including 49 projects in construction.

“In a year of unprecedented challenges, our team at CPRA pressed forward with unrelenting focus in order to advance projects and deliver results to the citizens of coastal Louisiana,” CPRA Chairman and Executive Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Activities Chip Kline said. “This year, like perhaps no other year since 2005, showcased the continued and dire need for the work that we do.”

Louisiana was impacted by a record number of named storms during the 2020 hurricane season. Coastal wetlands work alongside man-made levee systems to provide critical storm surge protection. Cypress swamps in particular “are very effective at slowing the currents down and ultimately reducing the surge levels” during hurricanes said Dr. John Lopez, Director of Pontchartrain Conservancy’s Coast & Community Program. Lopez also serves as a coastal scientist for Restore the Mississippi River Delta. “For the most part, the levees around southeast Louisiana are earthen levees that can’t take severe wave attacks. These trees can be vital to maintaining the integrity of the levee.”

In 2020, CPRA completed a $30 million, 2.9 mile levee-enhancement project in Jefferson Parish. This is the first in a series of projects designed to protect the greater Lafitte-Barataria-Crown Point community from storm surge flooding and other extreme weather. In addition, construction began on an $80 million floodgate project on Bayou Chene below Morgan City expected to be complete by 2021. Other notable projects include:

  • Completion of the Queen Bess Island restoration project near Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish, restoring a 36-acre rookery for Brown Pelicans and other birds.
  • Completion of the Rockefeller Refuge Gulf Shoreline Stabilization Project, protecting approximately 256 acres or marsh with three miles of encapsulated lightweight aggregate breakwater structures.
  • Expanded construction of the Northwest Turtle Bay Project, creating approximately 1,100 acres of marsh in Jefferson Parish below Jean Lafitte
  • Completion of five Recreational Use projects funded with settlement funds from the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster

In addition, the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities continued to advance a policy agenda intended to set Louisiana apart as a leader in coastal protection, restoration, and climate change prevention. In August, Governor Edwards established a Climate Initiatives Task Force to recommend strategies to reduce Louisiana’s greenhouse gas emissions. In December, Louisiana kicked off an effort to identify a portion of its coastline that can be added to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s coastwide National Estuary Research Reserve program. 

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