On May 12, 2023, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards joined the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and Plaquemines Parish officials in cutting the ribbon on the Spanish Pass Increment of the Barataria Basin Ridge and Marsh Creation Project, the largest ridge and marsh restoration project constructed to date.
“Being actively involved in a project from its inception to its conclusion is an immensely gratifying experience,” said Plaquemines Parish President Keith Hinkley.
“In the realm of government, it’s rare to hold a position during the initiation of a project and then several years later hold a position that allows you to be a part of the completion. This particular endeavor holds immeasurable significance, as it serves to safeguard not only Plaquemines Parish but other surrounding areas,” he explained.
The Spanish Pass Project restored over six miles of ridge west of Venice, Louisiana, and built over 1670 acres of marsh with nearly 11 million cubic yards of sediment, making it the largest marsh and ridge creation project by both acres built and volume dredged.
“Protecting and restoring Louisiana’s coast requires bold action and ambitious projects like Spanish Pass,” said CPRA Chairman Chip Kline.
“The completion of this project provides additional protection for Louisianans, new habitat for wildlife, and, most importantly, an investment in our future. We must build on this momentum and fight for the funding that will allow us to continue pursuing large, transformational projects,” he continued.
Spanish Pass is a natural historic distributary of the Mississippi River, extending westward into the lower parts of Barataria Bay.
The natural channel banks and adjacent marsh have degraded due to natural and manmade causes, including the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which occurred about 50 miles from the project site.
“Transforming open water to miles of new land like the Spanish Pass Project has will make a discernible difference for our coast,” said State Senator Patrick Connick.
“This project and the ongoing work to strengthen the Barataria Basin is vital to protecting Louisianans, and I applaud CPRA for its determination to continue scaling up the size of its projects,” he added.
This project is one of many large-scale restoration projects that will work together to benefit thousands of acres of wetlands throughout the Barataria Basin.
The Spanish Pass Project was first identified as a priority project in the 2017 Coastal Master Plan.
“Projects of this magnitude are critical to restoring Louisiana’s coast,” said State Representative Mack Cormier. “Large, complex problems like our state’s land loss crisis should be met with ambitious solutions like the Spanish Pass project to restore the habitat and protection these areas provide.”
The total project cost is $100.2 million, and it is funded with Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill settlement funds implemented through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Act (NRDA) and distributed by the Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group (LA TIG).
“The Department of the Interior greatly appreciates the Louisiana TIG’s efforts to restore habitat for birds after the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” said LA TIG Representative for the Department of the Interior, Sarah Clardy.
“The Birdsfoot Delta was one of the areas hardest hit by the oil spill and provides habitat to hundreds of species of birds. Because we have documented approximately 250 species of birds using habitat within or adjacent to the project area, we believe restoring the marsh and upland habitats in this area will increase and improve foraging and nesting areas not only for these birds, but also for other native wildlife species. These restoration projects are crucial to undoing the harm caused by the oil spill and ensuring the ecological survival of southeast Louisiana,” she explained.
The project used a borrow source on the east bank of the Mississippi River.
The project team coordinated closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, and River Pilot organizations to lay the dredge pipe across the River and subsequently the navigational canal to ensure were no disruptions to navigation for the duration of the project.
“We’re standing on what was once open water and is now nearly 2000 acres of restored marsh and ridge. Through record breaking projects and largest-ever levels of investment, we’ve set ourselves apart from our peers and brought Louisiana to the forefront of the fight against coastal land loss,” said Gov. Edwards.
“Our continued investments in the critical projects laid out in the 2023 Coastal Master Plan mark our commitment to preserving our coast and our way of life for generations to come,” he added.
The ridge habitat was planted with woody stemmed species of trees and shrubs native to Louisiana to mimic natural ridges.
Native vegetation will also colonize the new marsh platforms and produce a healthy habitat over time.
Photo courtesy of the Office of Governor John Bel Edwards.
See Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority website.