Posted on January 25, 2023
The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority received confirmation that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), New Orleans District selected the River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp as a mitigation feature for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Project, marking a first of its kind partnership.
“Implementing these projects together will not only breathe new life into a threatened ecosystem, but it will also provide greater protection against hurricanes and storm surge to over 60,000 Louisianans,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “I commend CPRA and the USACE for recognizing the positive impacts of these projects and working together in the best interest for our state.”
The MSP is a 2,000 cubic foot per second freshwater diversion located on the East Bank of the Mississippi River in St. John the Baptist Parish, just west of Garyville. The project will reconnect the Mississippi River to the Maurepas Swamp and revitalize over 45,000 acres with freshwater, sediment and nutrients. The swamp has been cut off from the river for over 80 years and is one of the largest and last remaining coastal freshwater swamps in Louisiana.
The USACE identified the MSP in a 2022 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, and determined the MSP would satisfy the mitigation required for unavoidable wetland impacts caused by the construction of WSLP. Typically, the USACE utilizes mitigation banks, and/or USACE constructed projects to compensate for unavoidable wetland impacts. The MSP is the preferable mitigation option since it can be integrated with the implementation of the WSLP project, it provides mitigation directly adjacent to the impacts, and it restores the ecosystem within the same watershed, and by doing so increases the resiliency of the WSLP project.
“We’re excited to build on our already strong partnership with the USACE by constructing these two key projects for Louisiana together and ultimately saving time and money,” said CPRA Chairman Chip Kline. “This is the first time a CPRA project will also function as mitigation for the USACE, and we cannot overstate the importance of this investment. From protecting Louisianans to building and restoring land, constructing MSP and WSLP will have long lasting benefits.”
WSLP is a joint effort of CPRA, USACE, the Pontchartrain Levee District, and St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. James parishes. The project consists of 17.5 miles of levees, one mile of T-wall, drainage structures, pump stations, and several non-structural protection measures spanning from the Bonnet Carré Spillway to the Mississippi River Levee near Garyville.
“When we combine risk reduction systems and restoration projects, vulnerable communities and the ecosystems around them both benefit,” said CPRA Executive Director Bren Haase. “The USACE decision is a win-win solution that will provide 100-year hurricane and storm surge protection to Louisianans while preserving a natural resource that is essential to our way of life in South Louisiana.”
CPRA and other non-federal sponsors will be responsible for construction of MSP and all increased costs over the previously selected alternative. CPRA has been allocated over $204 million in RESTORE funding to engineer and ultimately construct the project. State leaders representing the area impacted by the projects also applauded the USACE decision.
“Protection against hurricanes and storm surge is non-negotiable for South Louisiana, and this decision provides that while also ensuring the longevity of the Maurepas Swamp for future generations to enjoy,” said House Speaker Clay Schexnayder. “I thank the USACE for recognizing how these projects can work together in harmony.”
“The selection of the MSP as mitigation for the WSLP is an excellent example of the good things that government agencies can accomplish when they work together with a common sense approach to meet the challenges of flood control and coastal restoration. The WSLP will provide enhanced hurricane and storm surge protection for the east bank of the River Parishes while also restoring the degraded swampland in the Maurepas Swamp by infusing Mississippi River water,” said Sen. Eddie Lambert. “I am grateful that CPRA and the USACE have found a way to weave these projects together in a complementary way for the benefit of our state.”