A previous research interest of mine in graduate school was wetlands restoration, and it still holds a special place in my heart. This subject can be a sticky one in implementation, as many different groups are involved, have/want to have some sort of say, and this crosses both public and private domains, from flood control, to water flow, to even oyster fishing. Needless to say, there has been much bickering and research, but little action.
So, where does that leave us, the people of South Louisiana, in particular New Orleans? Well, without the wetlands, New Orleans basically becomes a sunken, levee-maintained island. There is little protection or buffering from waves, salt water intrusion, and, most importantly, tropical cyclones. This begs the question, “What can I do?”
Well, there are piecemeal actions being taken, such as the “Christmas Tree Fence Program“, which, as the name implies, uses old Christmas trees to make sediment traps in the marsh.
Stopping further erosion is only one component to the solution; there has to be more that can be done. There is need for fresh water to get into these systems to revitalize them.
The final major ingredient, in my estimation, is “substrate”–basically, dirt, sand, and organic matter. An old professor of mine, Gary Shaffer, was part of a research project to utilize treated sewerage to restore wetlands, which yielded excellent results.
All 3 components (substrate, fresh water, and substrate traps) are vital to a healthy wetland.
Of course, there are many other elements involved (oil and gas drilling, nutria intrusion, etc.), but they are only secondary to the main issues above.
Now, to get back to my original question: “What can I do?” I’ve already mentioned the Christmas Tree Fence Program, but that only comes once a year. Kudos to you if you’re already involved in that. In particular, though, a friend of mine, Andy Baker, who works with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Society, has asked me to pass on the word for the project on which he is currently working. This is the “Bayou St. John Wetland Creation Project”.
This project is in dire need of both charitable monies and volunteers to do planting. I urge you to consider doing both or either, as this will create a new half-acre of marsh within the New Orleans city limits. It may seem like a small amount of land, but this work is at the outlet from the bayou to the Lake, so it will impact much more than its size implies, as it will act as a natural buffer for the local levee. Recall, it was the levee failures, not rain or wind, that did the major damage to the city during Hurricane Katrina.