Here's what happens next.
A board of state and federal agencies has approved final plans for two coastal restoration projects nearing the end of their 20-year lifespan in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.
“A lot of those projects began in the early 90s,” said Sinead Borchert, Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act Task Force's Public Outreach Committee. “They went through planning, engineering and design, before construction. As a part of this program, they assume that all projects have a 20-year life. So they’ll go through maintenance and repairs if needed.”
The Brady Canal Hydrologic Restoration project, 21 miles south of Houma, was initiated to maintain and enhance 297 acres of marsh by reducing tidal wave action. At a cost of $7.35 million, project features include replaced weirs, a rock plug, stabilized channels, and restored and maintained channel banks. The project completes its 20-year life on May 22, 2020.
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to Clovelly Hydrologic Restoration project was constructed to benefit 175 net acres of marsh in the Barataria estuary in southern Lafourche. The area was losing about 450 acres annually when the project was implemented. Shoreline was also reestablished along 5,000 feet of canals and 6,000 feet of lake-rim along Bay L’Ours. The project’s cost was $12.78 million, and it completes its 20-year life Dec. 12, 2021.
After the projects have reached 15 years of age, the task force assesses the projects to determine whether they are in condition to be closed-out and the features retained. The task force has decided to leave the protective features in place without a cost increase.
“In most cases, when you’re doing a coastal restoration project, you’re spending money to put those features in and you hope they stay there and are successful,” Borchert said. “These projects that they just approved for close-out without any cost increase means they aren’t going to spend any additional money to remove those features; they’ll remain in place.”
Upon their 15-year check-up, the task force can elect to close-out a project and partially or completely remove features if they think they will be a danger to public safety or if the landowner has an issue due to liability reasons. In other cases the project may be transferred to another entity or receive an extension and could possibly be allotted more funding for additional operation and maintenance.
“Those projects that they just approved a path forward for will be reassessed after their 20-year life,” she said. “The budget has to be planned five years in advance because they have to know how much money they need to allot ahead of time. The 20-year point is the final vote on the project. It’s interesting because the CWPPRA program is so long that we’re just now starting to hit the 20-year mark for a lot of older projects. Decisions have to be made soon on how to close out a lot of these projects.”