The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation's Coastal Lines of Defense Program released an environmental report card this week. The report card lists ten priority project areas within the Pontchartrain Basin. Utilizing the "Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy", proposed by Dr. John Lopez of LPBF and adopted by both the State of Louisiana and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the ten project areas were selected due to their importance as both habitat restoration and flood protection. Grades were assigned based on real progress of each project area since the landfall of Hurricane Katrina. An "A" grade was assigned if at least one significant project was completed in an area. An "F" was assigned if no significant project was designed or constructed by either the state or a federal agency since Hurricane Katrina. Grades of B, C, and D complete the range of a combination of design, funding and construction.
Both the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO)-land bridge and the Bayou LaLoutre Ridge received "A" grades . The MRGO land bridge got an "A" due to the completion of a shoreline protection project under the Breaux Act as well as several marsh creation projects currently being designed. Bayou LaLoutre scored a top grade from the completion of the earth and rock dam across the MRGO, effectively restoring the historic ridge which was cut during MRGO construction decades ago. This project was completed during the summer of 2009 by the Corps of Engineers. Salinity levels up stream from the reconstructed ridge are already returning to pre-MRGO levels, thus increasing the possibility of restoring cypress swamps, which thrived until the 1960's.
At the low end of the grading scale is the restoration of the Chandeleur Islands. Until recently, the Chandeleur chain of islands was the longest natural barrier in the Louisiana waters and a major bird rookery. Originally established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1904, the Chandeleur's were repeatedly ravaged by Hurricanes Georges in 1998, Ivan in 2004 and Katrina in 2005. Considered critical in maintaining the Biloxi Marsh, which protects New Orleans and St. Tammany Parish in Louisiana and the far western Mississippi Gulf of Mexico coast, LPBF considered efforts falling short in the commitment for restoration. Neither the State of Louisiana nor the any federal agency has any plans for restoration of this great historic natural barrier island chain.
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