Study scope omits Plaq. storm surge concernsAug 3rd, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: news
Part of the Louisiana Coastal Area program (LCA), the Barataria Basin Barrier Shoreline Restoration Study was authorized by Congress in 2007.
The goal of the study was to restore the barrier in form and function. And through that restoration to increase the acreage of the nearby dunes, shoreline and marshland, which all forms the complex and natural protection system for the coast.
There were two barriers the study examined: Shell Island, near Empire, and Caminada Headland, near Jefferson Parish.
Shell Island has not been whole for decades, after damage caused by Hurricane Bob, which left the coast open by essentially severing the island.
The study examined many solutions for restoring the island back to pre-Hurricane Bob acreage, and possibly adding more, up to 1,197 acres of beach and 1,652 acres of marsh according to the data presented in the LCA report.
However, the study was limited to a certain scope: the researchers were to maintain a focus on the natural rate of land loss—without including storm loss, or factoring storm protection as a requirement in their final submitted plan, which will be submitted to Congress for final approval. Only then will any funding be allocated to the project come 2012.
“We don’t have the authority to look at storm damage restoration for this study,” said Fay Lachney, Senior Plan Formulator for the Barataria Basin Study. “This is not coastal storm damage. This is ecosystem, and we don’t have the authority [to expand scope].”
The researchers are seeking to mimic the natural conditions which breed better habitat for marine life and perpetuate gulf restoration.
“One of the worst problems we had to deal with was the lack of sediment,” Lachney said. “We had to search for good sources… and that was a major part of what was carried out in this study.”
Finding ways to get the materials needed to increase all that acreage, from miles upon miles away, to the area is what sent costs up. One of the first plans Lachney saw would have seen billions in cost. Even the plan the LCA brought to the public hearing surpassed the previous estimates of $242 million. The limit was 150-percent of that estimate. The plan on the table surpasses $400 million dollars, which means the price tag and the plan require congressional approval now.
But the Shell Island barrier project being recommended is the way to go, William Klein said. Klein, who is an Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Engineer, said that the plans being put in place—with the available funding—must be addressed and are as serious as a chest wound in an ER patient.
“This is a triage approach,” Klein said. “We have to get the best bang for our buck.”
Klein also said that one of the main points being addressed in the LVA reports addendum of recommendations is the lack of Parish input that was sought in this process.
“We didn’t include the Parish, like we should have, and that’ll be in the comments,” Klein said.
Comments at the meeting addressed this fact. P.J. Hahn, Director of Coastal Zone Management in Plaquemines, said that ignoring the potential for storm surge protection is certain folly, which may lead to wasted dollars that wash away with the tide.
“One of the things I’d like to see addressed is raising the height of these barrier islands,” Hahn said. “While it’s nice to create and build up our islands… it’s important to the people living here to have storm surge protection.”
“If we’re ever going to look long-term we need to work together,” Hahn continued. “Not the State, not the Corps, not just the Parish.”
The qualifying period for public comments ends August 8. Then the project report, which is available on the website, will be updated to include all public comments and concerns, which the team must respond to, said Klein.
“This is the beginning of restoring the coast,” said Lachney. “[Because] no one project is going to restore the coast.”