Mississippi mud to provide protection for Plaquemines Parish
Don Ames Reporting
With state and federal agencies moving slowly to build storm protection along the Plaquemines Parish coastline, Parish President Billy Nungesser wants to go it on his own.
On Thursday the Parish Council okayed a $50 million bond issue to finance the dredging of river sediment to build up the coast along the 70-mile-long strip of citrus and ranch land south of New Orleans.
The bond money would be used to hire contractors and lease a dredge to pump the Mississippi mud into surrounding open waters to eventually create new forests, ridges and marshes to ward off the encroaching Gulf of Mexico.
Nungesser says he's not at odds with the Army Corps of Engineers.
"They're pushing the sediment pumping and have been a great supporter, in general of what we're doing."
In fact, the Corps wants to take mud it routinely stirs up and dredges to keep the river open for ships and place it on the western side of the river delta to build up wetlands and marsh in West Bay, at the rivers mouth.
But, he says Plaquemines can't wait for state and federal agencies to act.
"We're just going to go it alone and get it done. It's the only way to save Plaquemines Parish. And, I believe the cost of the dredge will be less than half of what we're paying today for projects."
"We can achieve the same thing, outside the levee system, with three dollar sand as opposed to fifty dollar clay," says Nungesser.
And, he says selling the bonds should be no problem. He says the parish had a 20 million dollar surplus this year.
"We've got new businesses opening up every day. We've got three facilities being built on the river as we speak, two coal facilities...a tank facility. We're open for business and things are going well," he says.
"All we got to do is show the businesses and the people that we're willing to step up to the plate, and put the protection in place to keep those businesses, property and life safe."
He says the bonds would be backed by a steady stream of oil and gas revenues.
"Coupled with what we should get from BP, that should bridge the gap until we enjoy the 2017 revenue sharing. And, hopefully, that dredge will never stop working until we do have back what was there a hundred years ago," Nungesser says.
"We can't wait,'' he says. "We decided to go it alone. It's an emergency.''
Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone Manager, P.J. Hahn, said the project could begin in 4 to 6 months.