Environmental Community Endorses State Barrier Island Plan
Baton Rouge, LA - Last week, Governor Bobby Jindal announced the State's intent to fortify the temporary oil barrier sand berms to become barrier islands. The plan to fortify the berms into barrier islands was greeted with strong support from many members of the environmental community. The restoration of these barrier islands was authorized by Congress though no funding has been provided to perform this work.
"We support the state's proactive efforts to urgently move forward with the restoration of Louisiana's barrier shorelines impacted by the oil spill. The eagerness to proceed with well vetted, existing restoration projects is clear evidence of Louisiana's commitment to wisely and quickly invest in the restoration of our coast", commented Steven Peyronnin, Executive director of The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. His statement was made in conjunction with a number of state and national environmental organizations including the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation.
The $360 million sand berm project that was launched to protect Louisiana's coastal areas from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has involved dredging more than 17 million cubic yards of sand, including 12 million cubic yards of sediment that was dredged from the Mississippi River and added to the barrier island chain systems. To date, more than ten miles of sand berm have been built and two remaining sections are scheduled to be completed over the next two weeks.
Approximately $140 million in funding remains under the States' agreement with BP for sand berm projects. Governor Jindal announced that the state has been in discussions with BP to fortify construction actions from the currently authorized temporary berms to the more resilient and ecologically beneficial barrier island restoration projects. Under this agreement up to $100 million of the remaining sand berm funding would be dedicated to restore the existing eroding historic barrier islands. The remaining $40 million will be dedicated to finishing the current construction phase and performing required environmental monitoring and support and other compliance costs associated with the berm work.
"Louisiana's barrier islands are havens for wildlife and a vital component of our productive coastal marine ecosystem. The Louisiana Wildlife Federation is an ardent supporter of applying ecologically sound engineering practices to restore our barrier island system. The LWF therefore supports the state's intent to convert the oil spill response sand berm work into barrier island restoration projects that are constructed in accordance with established restoration techniques and are consistent with the state's Master Plan for Coastal Protection and Restoration.", indicated the Louisiana Wildlife Federation upon learning of the fortification announcement.
The State submitted documentation for a permit to perform restoration actions planned and designed for Scofield Island (berm segment W10), is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to speed up the expenditure of state and federal Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act funds (Breaux Act) to restore Pelican Island (berm segment W9), and is evaluating options to perform restoring portions of Shell Island (berm segment W8) or the Chandeleur Islands (berm segment E4).
Next steps on the project include permitting the fortification efforts, coordinating the potential use of Breaux Act funding with NOAA and reconfiguring dredging activities to perform the restoration of the islands.
"The state's decision is a great step towards restoring coastal Louisiana," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District Commander Col. Ed Fleming. "The Corps is committed to assisting them as they move these efforts forward." The state is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the permitting of the barrier island restoration work.
"This oil spill has devastated our coastal communities and our fragile ecosystem will pay a hefty price for this spill for years to come.", commented Garret Graves, Chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana. He continued, "Finally, a silver lining. The fortification of the oil barrier sand berms will result in the largest barrier island restoration investment in Louisiana history. We're working to convert this into a $200 million effort to help restore this vital first line of defense."