Project that will Revitalize Louisiana’s Second-Largest Swamp Moves Forward

A project to revitalize a large portion of Louisiana’s second-largest swamp is moving forward after decades of discussion, according to this detailed article from Maurepas Swamp is the sheer picturesque definition of what the ideal Louisiana swamp looks like. It covers a vast area between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and according to project manager Brad Miller, “it’s been dying for almost a century now, and the thing with swamps is, it happens really, really slow.”

Thankfully, the project that will account for the revitalization of Maurepas Swamp is expected to begin in the next few months. The project will reportedly involve the injection of freshwater from the Mississippi River into the swamp for sustainability. The aim of the project is to improve the region, which is expected to benefit approximately 45,000 acres, while also reviving an ecosystem that used to be a bountiful and prime spot for wildlife.

Projects of this type and sort are quite important for Louisiana, as they are capable and able of knocking down storm surges during hurricane season. Gary Shaffer is a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, and he said the following when speaking on the subject: “if you’re interested in hurricane protection, that’s the way to go – to build swamp.” Shaffer has studied the area affected by the project, and he has advocated for the revitalization project for over 20 years.

Essentially, this project is something of a river diversion, but in essence, it differs greatly from the planned large-scale diversions that are aimed at rebuilding coastal land, as this one will be relatively small, capable of channeling 2,000 cubic feet per second. Additionally, a new two-mile channel that will be constructed near Garyville will direct the water into the Hope Canal, then into an outfall area in the swamp located north of Interstate 10. Overall, this construction is expected to take about four years and will be done in conjunction with the nearby levee project,  known as the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection System.

This project is expected to reconnect Maurepas Swamp to the Mississippi River and the nutrients it once provided. Now, the levees hold the river in place instead of allowing its waters to overflow and its course to meander, which is what happened earlier in history. This traditional method was vital to keeping the region from flooding, but it badly damaged the wetlands and coastal marsh. A coastal scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, Alish Renfro said, “this is a huge deal. It’s 20 years in the making to actually get us here.”

Construction on the project is expected to begin in Summer 2023 at a total cost estimate of approximately $300 million, but as Miller and Shaffer can attest, it was tough for the project to move forward for quite some time until intervention by the Army Corps of Engineers.

As it was, last month, the Army Corps of Engineers had announced that they will allow the project to revitalize Maurepas Swamp to move forward if it also serves as mitigation for the environmental damage that has been caused by the construction of a major levee project in the nearby area, otherwise known as the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection System. This also allowed for Louisiana’s 35% share cost of the levee project bill to be lowered.

Additionally, the revitalization project’s momentum was also aided by settlement money related to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, as this settlement amount will reportedly pay for about two-thirds of the samp project with the state of Louisiana covering the remainder.

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