As many of you may have seen local reporter John Snell of Fox 8 WVUE aired a news story earlier this week featuring the beneficial use of dredged material from the Hopper Dredge Disposal Area (HDDA).
The newscast is available at the following link for those that may have missed it or want to share it:
The story focused on a channel maintenance project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Mississippi Valley New Orleans (MVN) awarded to Weeks Marine’s for a cutterhead dredge to dredge material from the HDDA and deposit it in the Pass A’ Loutre Wildlife Management Area. The area being restored at Sawdust Bend Bayou (map attached) was identified as a top priority by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) before the disposal site was agreed upon. In fact Weeks Marine originally intended to dispose of the material in the West Bay Receiving Area, but was unable to do so because of the high river stages and the risks of placing a submerged dredge pipeline under the Mississippi River Ship Channel in high river currents at approximately Mile 1.5 Above Head of Passes.
According to Todd Baker of the LDWF the chosen location for the beneficial use of the dredged material removed from the HDDA, Sawdust Bend Bayou, had been washed away 50 years ago by the storm conditions created in legendary Hurricanes – Betsy and Camille. Mr. Baker is a proponent of the beneficial use of dredged material and his partnership and cooperative leadership has also been “beneficial” to the Big River Coalition.
The following information was provided by Jeff Corbino of the MVN:
All nesting activity is on dredged material (sand) that has been placed during this maintenance event. Least Terns lay their eggs in “scratches”, where the terns make a small depression in the sand and disguise it with a scattering of woody debris (see attached photo courtesy of MVN, thanks Jeff). Eggs are smaller than a ping-pong ball, and with brown speckles. Both parents fiercely defend the nest by repeatedly diving at predators, and the entire colony lets out a continuous distress call when disturbed. There were about 20 nesting pairs on the 5/8 site visit, and a second colony formed on newly placed sand by the 5/29 site visit. Four other bird species (killdeer, mottled ducks, black-necked stilt, and sanderlings) are exhibiting their breeding colors on the Sawdust Bend placement site. The known and suspected nesting areas are noisy places and impressive to be near because of all the birds, especially the overly aggressive terns.
I have personally searched wetlands restoration projects both nationally and internationally and have yet to find any that challenge the title of the “Largest Wetlands Restoration Project in the World”, both the amount of dredged material at 121.5 million cubic yards and the restored acreage at approximately 9,000 acres appear to be world records.
There are an additional 7 million cubic yards to be removed as part of this HDDA contract and two cutterhead dredges expected to start dredging in Southwest Pass by the end of July, these two cutterheads will beneficially place the material behind the rocks of Southwest Pass. These records will be increased annually as additional dredged material will be removed from the Ship Channel and the HDDA and beneficially used to restore the environmentally sensitive areas in the Mississippi River Delta.
The Big River Coalition refers to these projects as “Sediment Recycling” as the material is removed from the Ship Channel where it is an impediment and used beneficially to restore wetlands in the immediate area. The HDDA can also be viewed as a recycling center, where the material is deposited by hopper dredges and later recycled by cutterhead dredges.
The Big River Coalition estimates that by the end of 2019 that 10,000 acres will have been restored in 10 years since the cutterhead dredges resumed dredging the Ship Channel in the area of Southwest Pass in 2009.