April 4, 2018

Benny Cenac, Houma Businessman, Weighs In On Mississippi Delta

Benny Cenac, Houma Businessman, Weighs In On Mississippi Delta

Benny Cenac, Houma businessman and philanthropist grew up along the Mississippi River Delta and marshes of Louisiana. He has seen first hand the impact coastal erosion has played for the place he calls home, which is why coastal restoration is a cause he supports and works to improve upon.

Mississippiriverdelta.org is an organization whose vision is “To restore a healthy Gulf of Mexico ecosystem – starting with prompt restoration of the Mississippi River Delta – to ensure the ecological, cultural, social and economic benefits of the Gulf are experienced for generations.”

They have put together a guide of recommended projects and priorities that are hoped to be completed within the next 5 years in effort to save the Gulf of Mexico. This 15 page informative brochure, which you can find here, outlines in great detail a list of all the plans and visions that the Mississippi River Delta Organization has in their restoration future.

This organization’s mission aligns with Benny Cenac’s. As an avid outdoorsman and philanthropist, he has helped make major strides in Louisiana’s coastal restoration efforts over the last couple of decades.  Louisiana marsh lands are disappearing at a rate of 20 meters per year; so quickly that, according to recent USGS estimates, several will disappear by the end of the century.  Resoration efforts aren’t only about wetland recession; it’s about restoring healthy land and water to sustain wildlife, as well.  

The state of Louisiana has developed a blueprint of projects to restore and sustain the estuaries of the Mississippi River Delta. The 2012 Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast (Coastal Master Plan) used a thorough and transparent science-based process, with extensive public outreach, to recommend 109 restoration and protection projects to be implemented over the next 50 years that maximize land building and reduce flood risk. All of the restoration projects proposed in the Coastal Master Plan slated for the first implementation period, years 0-20, went through extensive review. They were chosen as the highlighted restoration projects to be part of the Coastal Master Plan because of their adherence to a strong science-based project selection method and because of their robust and diverse public and stakeholder participation process. With a long list of needs and limited funding, it is critical that every available dollar be leveraged by selecting projects that maximize overall benefits to the Gulf. Given limited funds and many restoration needs, the chosen  projects were ones that address multiple priorities and goals.

The selected shoreline protection sites are ones where the principal threat is erosion, where no sandy barriers existed historically and where intervention now could have significant mid-term benefits – in other words, where subsidence is not a dominant factor driving land loss. The preference is for use of artificial oyster reef structures, where salinities will support them, either alone or in combination with other tested techniques, such as building sediment-capturing breakwaters parallel to the shoreline, rather than perpendicular. These parallel breakwaters have proven highly effective on various segments of the Louisiana coast. Oyster reefs have the advantage of long-term sustainability, since they can continue to grow vertically to offset relative sea level rise while providing significant fisheries habitat and wildlife value. Oyster reefs existed for vast distances along our coast before European settlement, and we should strive to re-establish them today.

Cenac began his coastal restoration efforts by first applying them to his farm, Golden Ranch, which was initially purchased from the Hwacha and Chaoucha Indians in 1744 and is the largest privately owned refuge in the state of Louisiana.  Benny Cenac later purchased it from the Gheens Family.  There, Mr. Cenac has constructed a series of flood control structures to help stop saltwater intrusion. Keeping saltwater out is a major task, but is necessary to protect the marsh and the entire property.

Besides the flood control system for the freshwater marshes, the ranch has an extensive levee system to protect the heart of the property.  Preserving this property is not only about saving what is already there; it’s about saving land and wildlife habitat for many generations to come.

Cenac states, “The conservation and education of Louisiana wildlife and coastal restoration are two things that have always been significant to me.”  Cenac frequently donates to other efforts attempting to reduce erosion.

One of the Benny Cenac Towing Companies latest events included presenting the Terrebonne Levee District and Terrebonne Parish with a newly built spud barge. The donated spud barge will be utilized by Terrebonne Parish to transport various and necessary equipment required for levee conservation and upkeep. It will also assist with coastal restoration efforts. The barge features a gate, spuds and hydraulic units needed to haul and secure such equipment to and from each location.

To learn more about Cenac’s coastal restoration efforts, click here. To read more about other coastal restoration projects in Louisiana, click here.  

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