On Wednesday, Feb. 12, the RESTORE Council voted to include the River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp project in its Funded Priorities List, approving $130 million in Deepwater Horizon oil spill funds for the project. These funds will effectively move the project towards construction in the next few years – a move that has been anticipated for 20 years!
“This project has literally been decades in the making.” – Bren Haase, CPRA Executive Director
Following the Council’s vote, Gov. John Bel Edwards held a press conference to announce the big news. “The Maurepas Swamp is not just an amazing and beautiful swamp and Wildlife Management Area, but it is also a crucial, natural buffer between hurricane winds and storm surge. If we let this swamp continue to die-off we would be putting many large communities in this region at increased risk,” Gov. Edwards said. “The protection and restoration of the Maurepas Swamp is essential to our survival and way of life in southern Louisiana.”
Prior to the consideration by the RESTORE Council, prospects for funding the project had been pretty slim according to Haase. The dollars approved by the Council will be made available for future funding and budgeting once the project accomplishes all engineering, design, and permitting requirements. The entire project is estimated to cost about $200 million.
“This is one of the biggest projects that will have the most ecological benefits in the history of the Louisiana coastal program”, says Haase. The River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp will benefit approximately 45,000 acres of cypress tupelo swamp – bigger than any other project in Louisiana’s coastal program history to date.
“I am pleased with the continuing effort of the state to stay ahead of the situation before we approach a tipping point in this natural wonder,” said Clay Schexnayder, Speaker of the La. House of Representatives whose district includes Garyville and a large portion of the Maurepas basin.
A reception, hosted by Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF), was held at the LSU Center for River Studies Wednesday evening following the funding announcement for the Maurepas project – a project that LWF has been in support of for years. Nearly two years ago, LWF hosted a public meeting with CPRA to provide the public with updates on the project. LWF is excited to see the River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp receive the much needed, long-awaited funds to move this project on to the construction phase.
The reception featured speakers that have worked on the River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp as well as a showing of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s (CPRA) video highlighting Maurepas Swamp and the project to restore it. Attendees also had the opportunity to view the Lower Mississippi River Physical Model.
Yesterday was definitely a day worth celebrating. While there is much to be excited about for the future of Maurepas Swamp, there is still work to be done. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has recently released its Draft Environmental Assessment #576, which evaluates alternatives to mitigate impacts incurred during construction of the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) Construction Projects which include West Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, Comite, and East Baton Rouge.
Unfortunately, the Corps has not included the River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp as a potential mitigation project for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain levee project. Using the Maurepas Swamp project as mitigation would save both time and money for the State – both of which we cannot afford to waste. You can help by taking action and submitting comments to the Corps to urge them to reconsider and not waste this opportunity.
Public comments are being accepted until March 2, 2020. Take action here.
To learn more about the River Reintroduction into the Maurepas Swamp project, visit http://coastal.la.gov/news/maurepas/.