NOAA Report / January 1999
900 Acres of New Wetland Habitat Created in Louisiana Delta Joint Project
D eep in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River delta, 900 acres of new wetland habitat have successfully been created as a result of NOAA’s restoration efforts, and an additional 3,000 acres of wetland habitat are expected to be created through natural processes over the next 20 years.
Located 18 miles southwest of Morgan City, La., the 900-acre wetland reconstruction, a joint project of NOAA Fisheries and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, was accomplished through two large dredging projects: the Big Island Project and the Atchafalaya Sediment Delivery Project.
Louisiana’s wetland loss is estimated at a rate of 25 square miles per year, or 800,000 acres within 50 years. Such losses affect the ecological, economic, cultural, aesthetic, and
Among those at the Atchafalaya delta project dedication were (left to right) U.S. Sen. John Breaux (D-LA); airboat operator Henry Adams, River Road Construction; Sec. Jack Caldwell, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources; NOAA Fisheries Director Rollie Schmitten; Project Design Engineer Ike Mayer of Brown, Cunningham and Gannuch; and Len Bahr of the Louisiana Governor's Office.
recreational needs of the state and the Nation. Much of the Nation’s oil and natural gas are supported by
Louisiana’s wetlands, and its vital nurseries for commercial fisheries and habitat for many species of plants and wildlife are rich resources.
Sanctuary Named National ‘Top Gem’
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When the Audubon Society was formed in 1886, the notion of public conservation was still in its infancy. The Society, the Nation’s first bird preservation group, was organized in response to the wholesale slaughter of birds for decoration or food. From this early movement, a system of national parks was created, but a larger movement to protect our natural resources didn’t completely take hold. By the 1940s, Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” raised an urgent call for stewardship of our natural resources, re-igniting the conserva- tion of public lands. The environ- mental movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s followed,
leading to the passage of new laws to protect our air, water, and the ocean.
“Everyone within NOAA and our state partners can take pride in this recognition,” says NOAA Administrator D. James Baker. “The staff at each of the 12 marine sanctuaries employs the full range of NOAA’s expertise and services to best protect these premier marine environments. Thanks to the success of the 1998 Year of the Ocean, Americans are increasingly seeing the benefits of extending our legacy of public conservation to the ocean, as embodied by NOAA’s 12 national marine sanctuaries.”
The Big Island and Atchafalaya sediment delivery projects were developed by NOAA and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources to enhance sediment delivery throughout the delta, create new distributary channels, and reopen some existing distributary channels.
These two projects are helping to restore freshwater and sediment delivery to the delta. Careful place- ment of dredged sediment created 900 acres of delta wetlands and reestablished the natural processes.
Already, alligators and numerous species of birds–including ducks, roseate spoonbills, black terns and American egrets–are using the new delta wetlands. Several species of fish are seen in waters adjacent to the new islands.