BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - On Wednesday, Feb. 12, Governor John Bel Edwards announced that the RESTORE Council has approved $130 million in Deepwater Horizon oil spill money to fund the River Reintroduction into the Maurepas Swamp project.
The project, administered by Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), will revitalize 45,000 acres of the Maurepas Swamp, which is the state’s second largest coastal swamp forest, CPRA says.
“The Maurepas Swamp is not just an amazing and beautiful swamp and Wildlife Management Area, but it is also a crucial, natural buffer between hurricane winds and storm surge. If we let this swamp continue to die off we would be putting many large communities in this region at increased risk. The protection and restoration of the Maurepas Swamp is essential to our survival and way of life in southern Louisiana. I commend CPRA and the RESTORE Council for their commitment to saving and protecting our most precious natural resources,” said Gov. Edwards.
CPRA Chairman Chip Kline says the state and various partners have completed eight projects using money resulting from the 2010 spill and currently have 41 other projects underway.
“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a terrible tragedy for the entire state,” Kline said. “But that event has provided us with the funding to enact some of the most important and long-awaited projects in our Coastal Master Plan.”
Kline says the entire Maurepas project will cost about $200 million.
CPRA says like many other ecosystems in the delta area, the Maurepas Swamp used to be nourished by fresh water from the Mississippi River. Levees, which of course protect communities along the river from flooding, have cut the river off from its delta.
“The swamp has been slowly transitioning from a bald cypress-tupelo swamp to fresh marsh and open water,” said CPRA Executive Director Bren Haase. “Cut off from the river, these native trees and other vegetation have suffered from the lack of seasonal high and low river cycles that both enriched the soil and allowed for regeneration of trees.”
CPRA says the project will include three 10′ x 10′ box culverts in the Mississippi River levee near Garyville. A new two-mile conveyance channel will then flow into the existing Hope Canal, which will be enhanced with small earthen levees for the last 3.5 miles into the Maurepas Swamp outfall area north of I-10.
Officials go on to say other project features include road and railroad crossings, pipeline and utility crossings, and outfall management features like gaps in canal spoil banks and low-level weirs on some bayous to help retain and distribute water through the swamp.
“The RESTORE Council’s approval of these dollars is good news for the Maurepas Project and a big deal for our fight to reverse the coastal crisis, but it’s a long time coming. The reality is that we have been robbed by other states in regard to funding under RESTORE Act, and the Council has used distorted formulas to the benefit of other states with significantly less impact compared to Louisiana; we should have gotten these and other funds long ago. I’m hopeful that today’s announcement is a sign that the RESTORE Council is finally beginning to right their wrongs,” said Congressman Garret Graves in a release Wednesday.
The project will not disrupt traffic on I-10 or other roads and project features will not impede storm water drainage, CPRA officials say.
To learn more about the project, click here.