Army Corps of Engineers presents plans for West Bank wetlands projects
Published: Wednesday, August 01, 2012, 10:15 PM
The Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday night unveiled a variety of wetland-restoration projects that will serve as mitigation for the environmental impact caused by building leveesalong the West Bank in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The projects would restore more than 885 acres of wetlands on the water side of the levee system, including filling in several abandoned oilfield canals in Jean Lafitte National Wildlife refuge, restoration of 85 acres of wetlands in Yankee Pond along Bayou Segnette, and restoration of 643 acres of bottomland hardwood wetlands and swamp at Lake Boeuf, near Raceland in Lafourche Parish. The mitigation plan also will eventually include restoration of wetlands in privately owned “mitigation banks,” which will compensate for habitat damage on the protected side of levees.
Corps officials did not provide a price tag for the West Bank projects during Tuesday’s meeting at the Westwego Ernest J. Tassin Senior Center.
However, at a January meeting in Vicksburg, Miss., New Orleans corps planners estimated spending about $252 million on restoration projects resulting from construction of the 160-mile levee system, including $79 million on east bank projects and $173 million on the West Bank.
The projects in the corps’ tentatively selected plan were chosen from more than 400 possible mitigation sites, many suggested by community members.
The projects will compensate for damage to natural areas caused by building the West Closure Complex, Mississippi River Co-located levees, Eastern Tie-In, Harvey to Westwego Levee, Lake Cataouatche Levee, Bayou Segnette Floodgate Complex, the Western Tie-In, and government-furnished borrow sites in Plaquemines, Jefferson and St. Charles parishes.
Corps officials discussed the restoration program in general terms before attempting to break Tuesday night’s audience of about 50 people into smaller groups to discuss individual projects.
Another idea in Jesuit Bend
But the owner of a large tract at Jesuit Bend in Plaquemines Parish objected, saying the format deprived the audience of hearing about his alternative to the corps plan.
George Howard is president of Restoration Systems LLC, a North Carolina company that operates mitigation banks and develops property as mitigation for private owners and government agencies nationwide. He said the company has developed 25,000 acres in nine states as mitigation projects.
Howard’s proposal would redevelop open water areas of his property as wetlands, which he said could be done more cheaply than the corps and would help protect Plaquemines communities from hurricane storm surges. He said it’s not necessary to treat his property as a mitigation bank.
Elizabeth Behrens, corps environmental manager for the levee mitigation plan, said the agency has chosen projects it believes best match damage done in the levee construction. Many of the smaller projects will be in or adjacent to the Barataria Unit of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park because of damage done to park lands.
Those projects avoid the cost of buying land that’s already part of the park, or will result in purchased land being added to the park, she said.
Other projects were selected as a response to damage to the environmentally sensitive Bayou aux Carpes wetland area, which is protected by a provision of the federal Clean Water Act, that occurred during construction of the West Closure Complex at the junction of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the Harvey Canal.
She said Howard’s property is still eligible for participation in the mitigation bank portion of the restoration program, whose projects won’t be chosen until later this year.
‘Geocrib’ project under way
The Lake Boeuf project, chosen to mitigate for general impacts to bottomland hardwood forests and swamps, was picked as the best environmental project of its size in the area, she said. The land bought for that project will eventually be turned over to the state’s nearby Lake Boeuf Wildlife Management area, and thus available for public use, Behrens said.
Another 50-acre project, already well under way, is at the “Geocrib” area separating the eastern edge of Lake Salvador from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Jefferson Parish.
The individual projects will be aimed at rebuilding wet or dry patches of bottomland hardwood forests containing cypress and tupelo trees, freshwater marshes, or swamps, based on the damage to each type of habitat by the levee projects.
The mitigation bank projects will involve the corps buying “credits” from an authorized bank located within the West Bank levee area. The corps will issue a request for proposals to buy credits from the banks equivalent to the acreage it determines is needed to be rebuilt.
Comments on the mitigation proposals can be made by calling the corps’ construction impacts hotline, 1.877.427.0345; on the web at www.nolaenvironmental.gov, or by email email@example.com.
For more information about the projects, contact Patricia Leroux, Project Management; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;
Environmental Planning and Compliance Branch; P.O. Box 60267;
New Orleans, LA 70160-0267; or by phone at 862.1544; or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Schleifstein can be reached at email@example.com or 504.826.3327.
© 2012 NOLA.com. All rights reserved.
Why.. why is it that the federal goverment wants so badly to push out private capital in environmental markets. The idea of some full cost accounting "review" would easily show the COE that they will spend substantial amounts beyond permitting, design, construction, as built, monitoring and other long disregarded cost. And push private business and small business into troubled water.
WHY. Virginia had that approach and spent Millions to serve VDOT needs with any thought.
I ask, who wants to talk full cost accounting.
Golly gee Swampmerchant! Must Fedzilla always send its ever-elongating tentacles into every heretofore undiscovered nook or crannie? Has any activity on earth ever been identified that might possibly be accomplished with reduced interference from the Leviathan? Does not the need for this particular mitigation result from 100 years of COE hubris and its many failed attempts to thwart God's design of a dynamic delta system? Should we all be consoled by COE assurances that now they know how to do things right? Have they even offered any assurances regarding project success? Are said assurances at all comparable to the very real FINANCIAL assurances that private mitigation bankers must provide?
Good luck to the poor residents of Louisiana- I truly hope the COE performs better than they have in my backyard. When COE held a community meeting to present their designs to "restore" what they consider a degenerate stream that now poses a clear and present danger to our Republic, they could not credibly answer a single technical question about their design (the designer did admit he had never designed a stream before, and said he's "just a biologist" so he was "learning"). The COE had a slideshow intended to document the imminent threat to national security posed by White Oak Creek. Most of their slides showed sigafooses, including one I recognized from my neighbor's back yard. The COE's design "expert", program manager and the local engineers from the town don't even know what a sigafoos is, let alone understand its implications for fluvial dynamics. Makes one think that an army so proficient at killing bad guys should maybe…..stick to killing bad guys.
Another key point to consider: the COE is exempt from their own permitting process. While noble entrepreneurs must slog through the byzantine morass of paper excreta and fend off insipid "comments" from the well intentioned ignoratti just to win the privilege of putting risk capital to work, the COE prints its own project approvals with all the deliberative effort that Timmy G puts into printing money (or filing his taxes).
Well Swampmerchant, don't give up the fight. Someday somebody important will realize that the US Army, including its Corps of Engineers, should only have enough money for guns, ammo, and the other necessary (and way cool) appurtenances of war.