Governor Bobby Jindal, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and other leaders came together today to announce a partnership between the city and the state to invest more than $30 million for the protection of the Orleans Landbridge, which separates Lake Borgne and Lake Pontchartrain.
Governor Jindal said, "We are continuing to ensure that New Orleans comes back better than ever before and this $30.42 million investment is an important part of that commitment. The Orleans Landbridge is not only home to important areas like Michoud, Venetian Isles, Lake St. Catherine and the nation's largest urban wildlife refuge, the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge - but it also plays a critical role in reducing storm surge in Lake Pontchartrain. Without the landbridge, higher volumes of water would have been forced into Lake Pontchartrain and the effects of Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav and Ike would have been even worse.
"This important project would not be possible without the support and involvement of many, including the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Bayou Sauvage Refuge and many others."
"The $30 million New Orleans East Landbridge project will serve as a vital coastal restoration and water management tool to better protect our residents, businesses, and infrastructure," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "Unfortunately, along the eastern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, hundreds of acres of wetlands and marsh have been lost in recent years. Construction of this landbridge will help to stop those losses and to lower the flood risk to nearby eastern New Orleans communities such as Lake Catherine by helping us better control rising sea water levels in Lake Pontchartrain. The Landbridge will also protect critical infrastructure such as Highway 90, the CSX Rail Line, and industry along the Intercoastal Waterway."
"We strongly support the Orleans Landbridge Shoreline Protection Project championed by Mayor Landrieu and Governor Jindal because strengthening key land bridges is an important tool to prevent erosion of the Mississippi River Delta wetlands, which must be a state and national priority," said Jim Tripp, senior counsel for Environmental Defense Fund, a national conservation group dedicated to restoring the Delta wetlands in coastal Louisiana. "The use of I-10 Twin Span Bridge demolition material to reduce wave energy also will transform a small piece of Katrina's wrath into a hopeful marsh and land protection memorial."
"This project is a perfect example of combining opportunity and funding - on a national, state and local level - to construct a project, with nearby resources, that will enhance flood protection and slow coastal erosion," said Tim Doody, President of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority -- East. "The landbridge is a critical component of the flood protection system. We applaud the governor's vigilant focus on flood protection and coastal restoration."
St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis said, "Alligator Point is a critical barrier controlling salt water intrusion into Lake Pontchartrain and helps maintain the delicate ecology of the area. It is crucial that all parishes in the region work in concert to protect our natural resources."
"Pieces of the old Twin Span Bridge, destroyed by Katrina, are now being used to construct marine reefs in Lake Pontchartrain, fishing piers in St. Tammany Parish and now a coastal protection barrier in Lake Borgne," said DOTD Secretary Sherri H. LeBas. "I'm proud of the part DOTD has played, in conjunction with Governor Jindal and CPRA, in pursuing the innovative reuse of the old I-10 bridge spans."
Funding for the project announced today includes $21 million from the CPRA and $10 million from the City of New Orleans for a total of nearly $31 million in Coastal Impact Assistance Program funds. This project will use 86,807 cubic yards of geogrid mats weighing more than 217,000 tons to help protect the shoreline. Rather than buying this material, the project will use material from the twin spans, which was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina -- resulting in $11 million in cost savings for the project.
A total of 658 spans and 586 substructures are being crushed and mats are being filled to provide nearly eight miles of protection along the Orleans Landbridge -- along the northwestern shoreline of Lake Borgne from Bayou Bienvenue to Alligator Point. The mats are being fabricated now and the shoreline protection measures will begin in January. Construction is expected to take approximately 15 months.
The United States Geological Survey recently released a report on coastal land loss in Louisiana. The report found that Louisiana has lost nearly 1900 square miles of land, but preliminary data show that approximately 200 square miles of land was created between 2008 and 2010.
The Orleans Landbridge has been eroding at a rate of nearly eight feet per year. The protection project announced today will prevent further loss of this important natural barrier and further encroachment of Lake Borgne and the Gulf of Mexico on a national wildlife refuge and lake-area communities.
In the last three and a half years, the Jindal Administration has invested a total of $1.7 billion in coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects, including surplus and federal funding.