Just northwest of Holly Beach, the once lush marsh of Cameron Meadows has been severely degraded over the past two decades by the combined forces of oil and gas exploration and hurricanes.
Now work has begun on a $32 million effort to restore 319 acres of the marsh. Louisiana expects the Houston-based Great Lakes Dredging & Docks to pump about 2.36 million cubic yards of sand, dredged from the Gulf of Mexico, into the site. Along with the restoration, the state will build about 2¾ miles of terracing to the east to knock down waves and allow more sediment to settle in the future.
As the region recovers from hurricanes Laura and Delta, Chip Kline, chairman of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, stressed that this project will strengthen the natural buffer separating southwest Louisiana from the Gulf of Mexico.
“These large marsh creation projects not only increase protection for the parishes immediately along the coast, but they add acreage between the land and the sea, pushing it further away from heavily populated areas further inland such as Lake Charles,” Kline said. “And the 2020 hurricane season further cemented this goal and our sense of urgency to increase protection for residents across Southwest Louisiana.”
A hub for oil and gas exports, Lake Charles hosts numerous petrochemical industrial sites. But about 60 miles away, some 7,000 acres of Cameron Meadows have converted to open water. Oil and gas exploration caused the land to subside, and Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Ike in 2008 severely damaged the vulnerable marsh, letting saltwater intrude northward from the Gulf and changing the area’s hydrology.
The restoration is the latest project to start in Louisiana’s $50 billion, 50-year effort to save the southern third of the state from washing away. For this project, the state is using federal money from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act.
Laurie Cormier, a planner and coastal zone manager in Calcasieu Parish, likened Cameron Parish to a barrier island for Lake Charles.
“This project will … strengthen and protect us from future storms,” said Cormier, who also is a member of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. “Anytime we create marsh and add terracing projects in Cameron Parish, we create additional protection for Calcasieu Parish residents.”
A federal-state coastal restoration task force on Thursday (Jan. 24) approved construction of a $26 million project to restore wetlands at the…