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Coastal projects could repair some of the bite Ida took out of LA.

Posted on May 20, 2024

The sun peeks out from under the Hwy. 1 bridge as charter boat captain Mike Guidry heads out of Leeville into one of the areas suffering Louisiana’s most dramatic land loss.

“Growing up here there was probably another 50 to 75 feet out in the water of land,” Guidry said.

He points to an old cemetery in the marsh, where only a few tombstones remain.

“Years ago, growing up, you could see the tombs that were here.”

Since 1932, geologists say, the Gulf of Mexico has devoured about 2,000 square miles of Louisiana.

Experts blame a variety of factors, from levees that rob the delta of Mississippi River sediment to canals that dissect the marsh and interrupt the normal tidal flow.

Everyday tides and winds, like a steady drip, drip, claim little bits of real estate.

Yet, in geological terms, hurricanes take land instantly.

Windell Curole, the recently retired general manager of the South Lafourche Levee District, points out Hurricane Ida, in 2021, rearranged the landscape, blasting through coastline and ripping open areas which had been a few miles inland.

“We probably lost 10 years of erosion, 20 years of erosion that we would normally have in one night.”

That included a vast area of flotant, marsh not quite connected to the water bottom.

Curole figures Ida devoured about 40 square miles of land in Lafourche Parish alone.

Initial estimates after Ida indicated an overall loss of roughly 100 square miles of land overall along Louisiana’s coast.

However, geologists say the final loss will be less than the earliest estimates.

Water that inundated some areas in satellite images ultimately recedes and areas impacted by storms tend to experience some accretion of land.

In the area between Grand Isle and Golden Meadow, land loss went into overdrive in the 1970s.

Today, it bares little resemblance to what it looked like when Hurricane Betsy struck in 1965.

There are some bright spots, including Queen Bess Island near Grand Isle, which the state rebuilt only a couple years before Ida.

Project managers who visited this important brown pelican nesting spot following the storm found it mostly intact.

The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has noted that many of its other restoration projects fared well.

However, coastal experts feel an urgency to address the land loss in the area of Lafourche that experienced significant land loss.

Curole suggests building a ridge of some sort to block salt water.

“The water keeps on getting deeper,” Curole said. “So, the deeper the water, the more money it costs, the more dirt you have to get.”

CPRA is in the design stage of a $38 million marsh rebuilding project along the northwestern shoreline of Little Lake with the aim of reclaimed about 600 acres of land.

A separate project, the Northwest Little Lake Marsh Creation, could be funding through the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act.

CWPPRA, administered by a task force made up of state and federal agencies, could fund the $43.7 million project to dredge material and create or nourish approximately 370 acres of marsh.


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