Jefferson Parish plans to plant islands in Lake Ponchartrain
Don Ames Reporting
Lake Ponchartrain will soon be home to some new islands.
Jefferson Parish is about to launch 17 of them, just offshore from Bucktown, where it's hoped they'll attract local wildlife.
It's the latest tool to protect and restore the marshes around the lake. The islands will be tiny ones, about 5 feet by 20 feet, made of plastic and planted with grass.
"They're stocked with microbes, and will ultimately grow into marsh grass native to the area and provide habitat," says Katherine Costanza, Assistant Director of Environmental Affairs at Jefferson Parish.
And, she says that habitat should provide some plentiful fishing areas.
"That's the goal...to provide some habitat growth there for the recreational fishing that goes on in that area," Costanza says.
The islands are expected to blossom with plant life so thick that their plastic bases will disappear.
If all goes as planned, they'll become attractive spots for birds, as well as fish, crabs and other shellfish.
But, they're actually a multi-purpose project.
"This system has an application for water quality, land restoration and habitat enhancement."
Costanza says they'll be anchored to the lake-bed, 60 to 100 feet from the shoreline. "They'll be towed into the water, in the vicinity of the Bucktown Marina, immediately adjacent to the three-and-a-half acre marshland right next to the Marina."
And, the grass roots could extend deep enough to provide a natural hold around the anchor chains.
Each island weighs 200 pounds and is made of recycled plastic of the type used in soft-drink bottles. The plastic will be buoyed with marine foam.
Eventually, they'll provide natural looking protection for the dwindling shoreline.
"This system is a system that's been used in other parts of the state, but this is the first time we're using it here in Jefferson Parish," says Costanza.
Similar islands have been used in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes to protect bayous and levees, and at a sewage treatment plant in Hammond.
Jefferson Parish is waiting for final approval from the Corps of Engineers to launch the new islands.
"We have a draft permit right now that's under review by the Corps. As soon as we get that permit, we'll be ready to proceed."
The parish is paying $50,000 for the islands, using a grant from the UNO Research and Technology Foundation.