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$234M BP spill money for 5 wetlands projects in 2 parishes

November 26, 2020 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana is getting $234.6 million in BP oil spill settlement money for five wetlands restoration projects in three parishes.

The allocations for Terrebonne, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes bring the state’s total in such restoration grants to more than $900 million this year, said Chip Kline, chairman of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

The biggest chunk is $157 million to restore, maintain and monitor up to 1,430 acres (580 hectares) of brackish and saline marsh and 80 acres (32 hectares) of earthen ridge on the eastern side of Bayou Terrebonne south of Chauvin.

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The next-biggest is $65 million in construction funding to turn up to 624 acres (252 hectares) of open water to marsh near Bayou Grand Cheniere in Plaquemines Parish, and to create an earthen ridge about 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) long next to Jefferson Canal.

“Yet again, Louisiana is showing itself to be a good steward of oil spill resources by implementing large-scale projects that will offer real benefits to the sustainability of the people and ecosystem of our state,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a news release Monday.

He said the projects “further our ongoing efforts to restore the natural resource damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and will also provide a measure of protection as we seek to restore the natural ecosystem buffer we once had.”

The state is getting more than $6.5 million for engineering and design to enlarge two eroded islands where seabirds and shorebirds nest.

About $3.1 million is going toward increasing a 32-acre (13-hectare) island in the Terrebonne Houma Navigation Channel to about 50 acres (20 hectares).

Another $3.5 million will go to plans for Isle au Pitre, a St. Bernard Parish island at the northeastern tip of Louisiana’s marshes and about 9 miles (14 kilometers) from Mississippi.

Planners say it would benefit brown pelicans, wading birds, American oystercatchers, terns and black skimmers — and that shoreline protection features would help oysters.

“Without our barrier islands and the marsh between, our levees face the brunt of storm,” said Terrebonne Parish President Gordy Dove. “The land and marsh we restore provides additional protection to our ecosystem and our way of life.”

The remaining $6 million is for engineering and design of the Bird’s Foot Delta Hydrologic Restoration project in Plaquemines Parish. It’s intended to restore the hydrology in the Mississippi River Bird’s Foot Delta by dredging portions of Pass-a-Loutre, South Pass, and/or Southeast Pass to reconnect the river with the delta’s marshes.

Plaquemines Parish President Kirk Lepine said, “Having received a major portion of the oil spill impacts, we appreciate the ... funds to Plaquemines to mitigate for those injuries.”