Locals come together to save the ever dying Maurepas Swamp

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 19, 2007


Staff Reporter

RESERVE- A joint venture between St. John the Baptist Parish, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to renew life to a dying swamp.

St. John Parish President Nickie Monica greeted the crowd of locals who attended the Maurepas Swamp Open House on Wednesday night, saying that he has been a supporter of efforts to reclaim the swamp from the increasingly detrimental effects of the lack of silt going into the swamps.

A proposed project to reintroduce Mississippi River water into the swamp was discussed at the open house at Louisiana Technical College River Parishes campus. Attendees were invited to stop by different stations with any questions and concerns they might have.

The water would be reintroduced into the swamp by building a new five-mile channel on the Hope Canal that would cross both I-10 and Airline and be linked to the Mississippi River.

Monica said the EPA first approached him shortly after he took office in 2000. When he met with them and other environmental agencies, the hopes to restore the swamp became a shared dream for all parties involved.

The project was allocated a $5 million budget in 2002 to provide funds for the engineering phase of the project which is currently in progress.

The project is still in the engineering stages, which is set to be complete in 20 months. The engineering phase is scheduled for completion in 2009 and more modeling will be required to determine where the final site for the channel will be.

Ken Teague, a project manager for the EPA, said that by bringing freshwater bank into the Maurepas Swamp the erosion of the swamp could be diverted and that it would benefit many aspects of the ecosystem including bringing in more organic materials to build the banks so that seedlings from the trees can have time to germinate and produce more trees.

&#8220It would also benefit wildlife such as the bald eagle, and migratory birds that depend on the wetlands and swamps for a resting place on their long flights. It is beneficial to humans because when the swamps are healthy, hunting and fishing are better,” Teague said.

&#8220Silt such as clay and other organic material is important for reinforcing the banks and increasing land stability so the invaluable tupelo and cypress tree forests can continue to flourish and grow. The increased flow of freshwater would also offset the introduction of saltwater into the swamp which also destroys the freshwater-loving trees. By introducing the river water, it would allow silt to be deposited in the swamplands and would essentially reverse the drowning of the them,” said Bob Jacobsen of URS consultants.

&#8220The construction of the channel still faces unresolved issues about where funding would come from, so it is still too early to tell when the it would be completed,” said Teague.

URS is working closely with DNR and EPA to provide models on how the reintroduction of the waters will affect the River Region.

Brad Miller, a project manager From DNR said the affects to the drainage system in Garyville and Reserve would be negligible. The major differences according to preliminary models, would occur near the Reserve Relief Canal.

In a model presented by Miller, the construction of the new channel will allow free flow of water that would be pumped evenly throughout the 50,000 acre target site to allow silt to be deposited in several directions.

&#8220If something is not done now, in 50-60 years the Maurepas Swamp will be nothing but open water,” Miller said.