Today, Governor Jindal met with local officials and flew over barrier island projects to observe the state's progress to protect Louisiana's coast and highlight continued coastal land loss in Louisiana. The Governor highlighted three specific projects on Pelican Island, Shell Island and Scofield Island on the lower rim of Barataria Bay. On Shell Island, the state built a 20 mile pipeline to pump Mississippi River sediment that is actively restoring Louisiana's barrier islands. The project is the first of its kind and is protecting the coast from hurricanes and providing valuable wildlife habitats.
"Only weeks ago these islands were open water. Now because of our progress, they're beginning to be an important habitat for our fish and wildlife and are tempering storm surge. If we had not dredged and pumped this sediment for the restoration of these islands, we would still be waiting on the Army Corps of Engineers and this area would still be deteriorating. When it became clear that the Corps wouldn't act on key coastal restoration projects that were scheduled to go forward, we stepped up and committed billions of dollars to protect our fishermen, our families and our coastal communities. This unprecedented investment is the largest commitment in our state's history and it is working to save our coastal wetlands.
"Indeed, our progress is encouraging but we still have an imminent, continuing coastal land loss problem. What used to be pastures and farmland here in Plaquemines Parish is now open water. The Gulf of Mexico has now consumed 1900 square miles of our land and coast. Over the years, we've called on the Army Corps of Engineers to step up and help us protect our coast. We've heard countless politicians promise protection, restoration, flood control and other solutions -- none of which we've seen any action on.
"We have seen the federal government spend hundreds of millions of dollars studying problems with very little solutions. We have study fatigue in Louisiana. We don't need someone to do a report that tells us we have a problem here -- we are not a science experiment. We have real people in harm's way. We have real fisheries that are being destroyed and real economic consequences on Louisiana families that are threatening livelihoods. We have had enough. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has missed every single statutory deadline requiring them to move these projects forward. Today, we are calling on them to act and help us save our coast."
Governor Jindal said that in 2007, Congress authorized billions of dollars in restoration projects for construction in Louisiana. Over the last six years, Congress has not provided any construction funding and the Corps has only continued studying the area. Instead, the state has stepped up to fund key projects to protect Louisiana.
The Governor highlighted some of the key coastal projects supported by the state:
- In 2009, the Governor announced that for the first time, sediment from the Mississippi River was being mined from the river and used to restore coastal wetlands in Plaquemines, known as the Bayou Dupont project in western Plaquemines Parish. The project pumped the sediment nearly five miles from the river to restore coastal wetlands.
- In the last five years, the state has built, fortified or restored nearly all of the islands across Barataria Bay. This provides a new and important first line of defense against hurricanes and represents more progress in protecting communities and restoring our coast than any other time in the state's history. Citizens in New Orleans, St. Charles, Jefferson, Lafourche, Plaquemines and others all benefit from these important projects.
- After the oil spill, the state began rebuilding Scofield Island, an island that had deteriorated to the point that it was largely open water. The Governor ordered the state to establish an oil berm there, and the state has now fortified the berms, restored the islands and built more than 600 acres of barrier islands that span over 2.2 miles of new shoreline in Louisiana. The project cost was approximately $70 million and was funded with berm fortification and state funds. The project is scheduled to be completed later this year.
- Pelican Island, just to the east of Shell Island was similarly eroded. An oil berm was built there as well and the state began working with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration to fortify the berm. NOAA funded approximately $53 million through the CWPPRA program and the state matched the funding with nearly $8 million to restore and protect approximately 400 acres over 2.4 miles of barrier island shoreline. Construction was completed in November of last year.
- Shell Island, where the Governor toured today, was also part of the oil spill berms. The state has supported $48 million to construct 1.3 miles of shoreline, consisting of an 8-foot dune and 300 acres of new land. The project is expected to be completed by the spring of 2014.
- The state announced an additional $340 million in agreements to build Cheniere Ronquille, the western lobe of Shell Island, North Breton Island and Caillou Lake Headlands in Terrebonne Parish to further restore the coast.
The Governor said these projects play a key role as Louisiana's first line of defense against hurricanes, but barrier islands alone cannot sustain our communities. He highlighted the need for federal investments in marsh creation, levees, floodwalls, river distributary restoration, pumping stations and elevating homes. He said the barrier island projects are a single component in a much larger vision that includes billions of complementary investments, such as the New Orleans to Venice levees in Plaquemines, the West Bank and Vicinity hurricane levees, Lake Hermitage and Grand Liard marsh creation projects in western Plaquemines, levees in Lafitte and Grand Isle and Lafourche Parishes and many others.
The Governor noted that the state will continue to build. Besides the current projects in progress, the Governor asked the CPRA to find ways to continue integrating restoration projects with improved navigation opportunities on the Mississippi River system (by continuing to dredge sediment from navigation channels) and ways to further improve habitat for recreational and commercial fisheries.