In late September of 2021, the state of Louisiana received a flood of good news, as a major coastal restoration project was completed, and two more infusions of restoration funding were received for future work.
Restoration of Trinity-East Island in Terrebonne Parish is Completed
On September 24, 2021, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards joined the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) in announcing the completion of restoration efforts on Trinity-East Island. The island was restored as part of the Terrebonne Basin Barrier Island and Beach Nourishment project, which includes the restoration of West Belle Headland and Timbalier Island.
The Terrebonne Basin project is using $167 million in funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and $3 million in state funds to restore 1,257 acres of marsh, dune, and beach in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. The completed Trinity-East project built over 2.5 miles of continuous shoreline and 301 acres of beach habitat on the historic barrier island.
“The newly completed Trinity-East Island project faced an immediate test with Hurricane Ida, and it passed,” Gov. Edwards said. “The project’s success is a testament to the resiliency of our coastal projects and the importance of restoring and preserving Louisiana’s barrier island chain. We’re excited to announce the completion of Trinity-East Island and the continuation of this 1,257-acre restoration effort on Timbalier Island and West Belle Headland.”
Trinity-East Island is part of the Isle Derniéres Wildlife Refuge, a once-popular resort island on Louisiana’s Southeast coast. The Last Island Hurricane of 1856 destroyed Isle Derniére, also known as “Last Island,” causing its eventual split into five individual islands including Wine, Trinity, East, Whiskey, and Raccoon.
“Despite facing one of the strongest hurricanes in our state’s history, Trinity-East Island fared incredibly well and sustained minimal damage,” CPRA Chairman Chip Kline said. “Hurricane Ida reaffirmed the necessity of protecting the systems that protect us. The Terrebonne Basin project serves both protection and restoration functions while playing an integral role in the coastal program’s multiple lines of defense strategy.”
The project’s next phase will include the restoration of 376 acres of beach and marsh on Timbalier Island and 97 acres of additional beach on West Belle Headland. Construction on Timbalier Island began on July 31.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) manages the Isle Dernières Wildlife Refuge, which includes a portion of the Trinity-East project site.
“This project is an impressive example of the state’s commitment to protect coastal properties, as well as to provide critical habitat for birds and other species of greatest conservation need,” LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet said.
Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF, said the landscape scale of the Terrebonne Basin project will drive long-term sustainability for the iconic wildlife populations of coastal Louisiana, as well as for the communities and industries that rely on these natural habitats as a first line of defense against storms and erosion.
“The Foundation’s $167 million investment in the Terrebonne project was made through our Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which was established to help mitigate the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” Trandahl said. “As recently demonstrated by Hurricane Ida, these kinds of investments can provide both immediate and long-term benefits to local communities and wildlife habitat.”
The offshore sand source being used for restoration is provided through a mineral lease with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
“BOEM is pleased to work with our partners in restoring critical coastal areas in the Gulf of Mexico region,” said Michael Celata, BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico Regional Director. “Using offshore sand resources is a smart way to protect communities from the accelerated effects of climate change.”
CPRA is the lead state agency charged with building and strengthening Louisiana’s coastal habitats as well as manmade protective structures. It also serves as the designated state representative in coastal partnerships with federal entities.
“Over nine million cubic yards of sediment are being used to complete this large-scale restoration project and provide improved storm surge protection to Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes,” CPRA Executive Director Bren Haase said. “We’re proud of the planning and collaboration that went into ensuring the state’s largest barrier island restoration project is a success for the people and wildlife who call these parishes home.”
Local leaders including Terrebonne Parish President Gordon “Gordy” Dove and Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson joined in celebrating the completion of the island’s restoration.
“Terrebonne’s Barrier Islands serve a number of important purposes,” Dove said. “Not only do they offer critical habitat for wildlife and nesting migratory birds, they offer excellent fishing opportunities and protect our important coastal marshes, which are the breeding grounds for shrimp and fish species. But, most important for Terrebonne Parish, the barrier islands are our critical first line of defense against hurricane storm surge. They help to reduce hurricane-driven storm surge, which can be so damaging as it travels inland. The Terrebonne Basin Barrier Island and Beach Nourishment project is very much needed and welcomed. I want to thank Gov. John Bel Edwards, CPRA and its Chairman Chip Kline, and Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO of NFWF for completing this critical barrier island restoration project on Trinity-East Island for Terrebonne Parish.”
“Our critical barrier island chains help to protect our basin and knock down storm surge like we recently experienced during Hurricane Ida,” said Chaisson. “I’m grateful for our partnership with CPRA and their commitment to our coastal communities. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we preserve and maintain our barrier island chains, marshes, and levee systems across South Louisiana.”
Vegetative plantings will begin on Trinity-East Island this fall.
CPRA Receives $28.68 Million Grant to Advance Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration Project in Southwest Louisiana
On September 23, 2021, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) was awarded a $28.68 million grant amendment to apply funds to the Calcasieu-Sabine Large-Scale Marsh and Hydrologic Restoration project in Cameron Parish. These funds will advance the project to benefit the 65,000-acre Cameron Creole Watershed through targeted large-scale marsh creation and enhanced drainage of excess surface water threatening marsh health.
Project funding comes from RESTORE Act Direct Component funds allocated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The current grant is a part of the $260.97 million allocation for Louisiana. Following the engineering and design of each major project component, CPRA will use the remainder of its allocation for phased construction of the project.
The grant was awarded to pursue implementation plans outlined in the State of Louisiana’s Second Amended Direct Component Multiyear Implementation Plan approved by the CPRA Board and the U.S. Treasury earlier this year. The plan details how the state intends to spend its total allocation of $260.97 million over 15 years and includes commitments to funding large-scale restoration in the Calcasieu-Sabine Basin. The grant award reallocates and builds on previously awarded RESTORE Act Direct Component grants for engineering and design of the Calcasieu project by focusing on reduction of flood stress through drainage improvements and marsh creation and nourishment, consistent with recent analysis of ecological stressors in that region.
“The devastation of the 2020 hurricane season to Southwest Louisiana underscored the critical need for large-scale ecosystem restoration in the Calcasieu-Sabine Basin,” said CPRA Chairman Chip Kline. “The people of this area are still recovering a year later. But with the amended plan approved and funding now available, we can begin the process that will take this multi-component restoration project from the drawing board to construction.”
CPRA Executive Director Bren Haase oversees all aspects of ushering projects through planning, engineering and design, and construction.
“This project will restore and maintain thousands of acres of critically-important wetland habitat that have been deteriorating in Cameron Parish,” said Haase. “However, the benefits won’t only improve the immediate area; they will also help knock down storm surge and protect larger population centers like Lake Charles and Sulphur further inland. Our Coastal Master Plan is predicated on a system-wide approach, and this project will amplify its benefits to all of Southwest Louisiana.”
Laurie Cormier, Coastal Zone Manager of the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, highlighted the project’s economic and cultural benefit to Calcasieu and Cameron parishes.
“The protection of 65,000 acres in the Cameron Creole Watershed through targeted large-scale marsh creation and enhanced drainage of excess surface water is the best news that Southwest Louisiana has received recently,” said Cormier. “Science tells us that a healthy marsh will help protect Calcasieu and Cameron parishes. This large-scale marsh creation will do just that across the Chenier Plain and the enhanced drainage will help to sustain this newly created marsh. This is a win-win for coastal Southwest Louisiana, its culture, its people and the vast amounts of economic expansion the area is experiencing.”
President of Chenier Plain Coastal Restoration & Protection Authority Ralph Libersat applauded the effort for addressing and repairing damages caused by last year’s hurricane season.
“Southwest Louisiana’s coastal shoreline and interior marshes have sustained a great deal of damage over this past hurricane season,” said Libersat. “This much-needed project will go a long way in repairing damages caused by Hurricanes Laura and Delta. I look forward to working with CPRA and other stakeholders in getting this and many more of these hurricane and storm damage reduction projects constructed.”
Following engineering and design and subsequent approval by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to release construction funds, the first components of this project are scheduled to be publicly bid in 2024.
Louisiana to Receive $15.2 Million to Advance Environmental Projects in St. Bernard Parish
On September 28, 2021, the Regionwide Trustee Implementation Group (TIG) overseeing funds resulting from the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill is providing funding for environmental projects across the five Gulf of Mexico states affected by the spill. Louisiana will receive $15.16 million for the engineering and design of two projects in St. Bernard Parish: $8 million to restore bird habitat on the Chandeleur Islands and $7.16 million for an oyster reef project in the Biloxi Marsh.
These funds will support the planning, engineering, and design steps necessary to advance these projects to construction.
The Chandeleur Islands have more than 50 species of plants and animals designated as “species of greatest conservation need,” with some not found anywhere else in the state. The islands have experienced a high rate of land loss due to subsidence, sea level rise, and sediment deprivation, as well as damage resulting from Hurricane Georges in 1998, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
CPRA will investigate the best design features to restore the islands with the placement of dredged sediment. This design will focus on creating essential wildlife habitat, including bird nesting environments, while also restoring the marine seagrass beds that are found at the Chandeleurs.
“This project and the current North Breton Island restoration within the Chandeleur chain are much-needed follow ups to the emergency berm sand dredging projects during the oil spill crisis in 2010 and 2011,” CPRA Chairman Chip Kline said. “The area is ecologically important enough that Breton Island was visited by President Theodore Roosevelt who, in 1904, designated it as the second federal refuge in America under his newly-established National Wildlife Refuge system.”
Engineering and design studies for the Biloxi Marsh project aim to create a network of protected oyster broods linked to reefs where young oyster spat can grow into harvestable adult oysters. Project goals include increasing oyster abundance and resilience across a range of habitats and salinities. Five to six sub-sites will be placed in the Mississippi Sound and northern Biloxi Marsh.
“The importance of our oyster population extends beyond their use in Louisiana cuisine,” CPRA Executive Director Bren Haase said. “A healthy oyster reef also provides a stabilized shoreline, a living water filtration system, and an entire ecosystem for reef-dwelling species.”
While individual state Trustee Implementation Groups in Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas receive funding for projects within their boundaries, the Regionwide TIG can fund projects across state and federal jurisdictions. The allocations for Louisiana projects are included in the Regionwide TIG Final Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment 1: Birds, Marine Mammals, Oysters and Sea Turtles. It includes $99.6 million for 11 restoration projects to be implemented across the Gulf States and offshore waters affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It also targets specific locations in Mexico and on the Atlantic coast of Florida.
Photo of pelicans on the restored Raccoon Island in the Isle Dernières Wildlife Refuge courtesy of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.