Officials to U.S. Corps: Use sediment for coastal restoration

Thibodaux Regional Medical Center’s North Hospital project complete
October 20, 2006

For years, sediment from dredging conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has simply been placed along banks in the area where the work occurred, testimony to a sometimes haphazard effort in the fight against coastal erosion.

However, with funding from a 10-year, $100 million program the Corps is looking for better ways n and places n to place the dredged sediment to better help with the battle to sure up Louisiana’s coastline.

The Corps of Engineers held a sparsely attended meeting last Tuesday at the Larose Civic Center to explain the Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Program (BUDMAT) and to seek public comment on where the excavated dirt should be placed for maximum benefit.

Every year, the Corps dredges an average of over 70 million cubic yards of sediment from the water bottoms off coastal Louisiana and only a fraction, roughly 25 percent, is used primarily for wetlands restoration efforts, officials reported at last week’s meeting.

“The program seeks answers as to what are the best uses for the remaining sediment,” said Ken Duffy with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

The newly funded program also seeks to use sediment from local waterways such as utilizing it in Bayou Lafourche and the Houma Navigation Canal to upgrade local marshes and swamps from erosion, the Corps reported.

“This sediment is a resource,” said Kerry St. Pe, the director of the Barataria National Estuary Program. He noted that since the 1850’s sediment delivery down the Mississippi River has declined by 80 percent due to the damming and other man-made blockages placed on the river over the decades.

“This stuff can be used to restore wetlands and it can be transported long distance to areas that can’t receive it naturally,” St. Pe said, citing the wetlands off Terrebonne Parish as an example.

Creating barrier islands and expanding recreation were the ideas pitched by the public to the Corps.

Larose resident Al Bruce cited the need to use the dredged material in this manner. “If we can use this to get the barrier islands back up and restored, it would in turn help to retain sediments in the marshes for land creation,” he said.

Bruce also cited the need for the allocation of more fresh water down Bayou Lafourche to stop the periodic salt water intrusion.

“It’s a no brainer,” said St Pe. “Ridge restoration is what this sediment should be used for and it needs to be done now. We can’t wait any longer.”

St.Pe noted the severity of the problem, adding that the Barataria Terrebonne basin is experiencing the fastest land loss rate on Earth.

“$100 million is a Band-aid,” said Cut Off resident Chad Bourgeois, who also had a novel suggestion for the Corps. “Just dump it all in one place if you have to. At least you’ll then have a decent shot at saving one place every year instead of just putting a little in numerous places that doesn’t do much good,” he said.