Airboats: A Tool for Restoration

Navigating wetlands can be difficult for traditional boats due to the changes in water depth and the amount of mud and muck, as well as the meandering of the waterways. Because of these complications, boats that travel both over land and water are needed to explore coastal wetlands. The creation of airboats and innovations in their design have allowed for greater exploration of wetlands and are vital to CWPPRA’s wetland restoration.

Airboats evolved since their introduction in 1905 by Alexander Graham Bell, who is also credited as the inventor of the telephone. His first model was named the “Ugly Duckling”, a crude test vehicle that incorporated an aircraft propeller mounted on the back of a simple pontoon boat. Over the next decade, further developments turned airboats into World War I reconnaissance vessels. Following the end of the war, commercialization led to a rise in popularity among civilians with companies designing taxis and recreation vessels alongside independent innovators creating their own airboat designs. One of the most revolutionary models was built in 1943 at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah and dubbed the “Alligator I”. This design was the first known to use air rudders rather than traditional rudders, and most airboats today replicate the Alligator I’s flat bottom hull with air rudders. [1]

Thanks to the inventors at Bear River, Louisiana’s wetlands are more navigable than ever. Further developments have allowed airboats to pass over land, increased passenger capacity and engine horsepower, allowing those in pursuit of recreation, scientific research, and sport hunting/fishing to reach previously inaccessible parts of our wetlands. CWPPRA teams visit project sites using airboats to help get an idea of problems to be addressed through the duration of projects, ensuring the best quality of restoration for our coast. Restoration and preservation have been made easier with creative solutions like airboats, so we would like to recognize the innovators who worked a century ago to improve upon each other’s designs. Once again, the land loss crisis and need for wetland restoration in Louisiana is too large for us to do it alone. We need all the help we can get from innovators like those at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge to help restore our coast.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airboat#First_prototypes

Featured image is from a CWPPRA site visit to our BA-34-2 project.

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South Lake Lery Shoreline & Marsh Restoration (BS-16)

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Reasons for Restoration:

According to USGS-land loss analysis, much of the southern and western shorelines of Lake Lery and the surrounding wetlands were heavily damaged in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. In the years following this storm, wind induced waves within the lake have begun to cause further damage to the lake’s shorelines. Currently the shorelines have become so damaged that the interior emergent marshes that are still intact are being exposed to the damaging waves. This has caused an increased loss of emergent marsh habitat. Even with the benefits of the Caernarvon Diversion Structure, without some type of restoration in this area, these marshes may not be able to fully recover.

Restoration Strategy:

This is a marsh creation and shoreline restoration project. The marsh creation aspect of the project will have a hydraulic dredge extract material from the Lake Lery water bottom and pump that material into contained marsh creation cells located south and west of the southern and western Lake Lery shorelines. This will create and/or nourish approximately 642 acres of intertidal intermediate marsh. The shoreline restoration component of the project will  have a barge-mounted dragline excavating material from the bottom of Lake Lery and placing that material along the southern and western shorelines. This restored shoreline will have a 50 foot crown width and be built to a height considered high intertidal marsh.

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Progress to Date:
This project received Phase II funding in January 2012. Construction began in the spring of 2015 and is expected to be complete in the summer of 2018. All marsh creation is complete. Earthwork and vegetative plantings associated with the lake rim embankments are complete. There are ongoing discussions regarding erosion concerns along lake rim embankments.
This Project is on Project Priority List 17.

The Sponsors for this Project include:

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Local Sponsor: CPRA

 

West Fourchon Creation & Nourishment Marsh

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The primary causes of land loss in the project area are oil
and gas canals, subsidence, and sediment deprivation, which
have resulted in an estimated rate of -0.41% per year based
on hyper-temporal analysis conducted by USGS for the
extended project boundary for the years 1984 to 2012.
Bounded by Bayou Lafourche to the east and Timbalier Bay
to the west the project area is also subject to shoreline
erosion.

This project would create 302 acres of saline inter-tidal marsh
and nourish 312 acres of emergent marsh using material
dredged from the Gulf of Mexico, southwest of the project
area. Earthen containment dikes will be constructed along
the project boundary to contain the material. Vegetative
plantings are planned at a 50% density, with half planned at
TY1 and half planned at TY3 if necessary. Containment
dikes will be degraded or gapped by TY3 to allow access for
estuarine organisms. Funding will be set aside for the
creation of tidal creeks if needed. This project, along with
TE-23 West Belle Pass Headland Restoration and TE-52
West Belle Pass Barrier Headland Restoration, will help
stabilize the edge of the marshes and protect Port Fourchon
from the west. The initial construction elevation is +2.4 feet
NAVD 88; after settlement, marsh is expected to be +1.4
NAVD 88.

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The project is located in Region 3, Terrebonne Basin, in
Lafourche Parish.

This project was approved for Phase I Engineering and
Design in January 2015.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 24.

The West Fourchon Creation & Nourishment Marsh sponsors include:

 

Cole’s Bayou Marsh Restoration

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Project area wetlands are undergoing loss at -0.42 %/year
based on 1983 to 2011 USGS data from the extended
boundary. Wetland loss processes in this area include
subsidence/sediment deficit, interior ponding and pond
enlargement, and storm impacts resulting in rapid episodic
losses. In addition, significant interior marsh loss has
resulted from salt water intrusion and hydrologic changes
associated with increasing tidal influence. As hydrology in
this area has been modified, habitats have shifted to more of
a floatant marsh type, resulting in increased susceptibility to
tidal energy and storm damages. Habitat shifts and
hydrologic stress reduce marsh productivity, a critical
component of vertical accretion in wetlands.

The specific goals of the project are: 1) create 365 acres of
brackish marsh in recently formed shallow open water; 2)
nourish 53 acres of existing brackish marsh; and, 3) increase
freshwater and sediment inflow into interior wetlands by
improving project area hydrology.

This project aims to create 365 acres and nourish 53 acres of
brackish marsh via dedicated dredging with borrow from
nearby Vermilion Bay. Although Vermilion Bay is not
considered an “external” source of material, significant
sediment inflows into this area may result in some borrow
area infilling. Half of the marsh creation acres would be
planted. The project will encourage additional freshwater
nutrient and sediment inflow from Freshwater Bayou Canal
by dredging a portion of Cole’s Bayou along with the
installation of a series of culverts throughout the project
area.

The culverts located along the northern project boundary are
envisioned to allow the ingress of sediment, water, and
fisheries organisms into the semi-impounded project area,
but avoid backflow of water and potential loss of interior
marsh sediment (i.e., north to south flow only). The culverts
located along the southern project boundary are envisioned
to allow water to drain out of the marsh.

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This project is located in Region 3, Teche/Vermilion Basin,
Vermilion Parish, east of Freshwater Bayou Canal.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 21.

The Cole’s Bayou Marsh Restoration sponsors include:

 

Cameron-Creole Freshwater Introduction

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Virtually all of the project area marshes have experienced
increased tidal exchange, saltwater intrusion, and reduced
freshwater retention resulting from hydrologic changes
associated with the Calcasieu Ship Channel and the GIWW.
In addition, thousands of acres of marsh were damaged by
Hurricane Rita and again, more recently, by Hurricane Ike.
Because of man-made alterations to the hydrology, it is
unlikely that those marshes will recover without
comprehensive restoration efforts. The Cameron-Creole
Watershed Project has successfully reduced salinities and
increased marsh productivity. However, the area remains
disconnected from freshwater, sediments, and nutrients
available from the GIWW.

The freshwater introduction project would restore the
function, value, and sustainability to approximately 22,247
acres of marsh and open water by improving hydrologic
conditions via freshwater input and increasing organic
productivity.

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The project area is located on the east side of Calcasieu Lake
and west of Gibbstown Bridge and Highway 27.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 18.

The Cameron-Creole Freshwater Introduction sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.

LaBranche East Marsh Creation

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Dredging of access and flotation canals for the construction
of I-10 and the Illinois Central Railroad resulted in increased
salinity and altered hydrology in the area that exacerbated
the conversion of wetland vegetation into shallow open
water bodies.

The project’s primary goal is to restore marsh that has been
converted to open water. Project implementation will result
in an increase of wildlife and fisheries habitat, acreage and
diversity, along with improving water quality. In addition,
the project will provide a storm buffer protection to I-10, the
region’s primary westward hurricane evacuation route, and
complement hurricane protection measures in the area.
Project features consist of the creation of 729 acres of marsh
and the nourishment of 202 acres of existing marsh using
dedicated dredging from Lake Pontchartrain. In addition,
10,000 linear feet of tidal creeks will be created. The marsh
creation area will have a target elevation the same as average
healthy marsh for this region. Plans are to place the dredge
material in the target area with the use of low level, noncontinuous
retention dikes along the edge of the project area
allowing overtopping of material to nourish the marsh fringe.
Vegetative plantings will be utilized in the areas deemed
most critical by the project team. Successful wetland
restoration in the immediate area (PO-17) clearly
demonstrates the suitability and stability of soil and material
availability from a sustainable borrow area.

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The project features are located between Lake Pontchartrain
and I-10 in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. It is bounded on
the west by the Fall Canal and the Bayou LaBranche
Wetland Creation Project (PO-17) and the east by a pipeline
canal.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 19.

The LaBranche East Marsh Creation project sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.

 

Cheniere Ronquille Barrier Island Restoration

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This area is undergoing shoreline erosion, interior wetland
loss, overwash, and breakup. The Gulf shoreline erosion rate
has doubled from 1988 to 2006. Project area marshes also
are being eroded at -11.8 ft/yr between 2003 to 2006 as well
as being converted to open water from internal breakup.

Restoration would expand the Gulf shoreline structural
integrity and associated protection by tying into two recently
constructed projects to the east and address one of the
remaining reaches of the Barataria/Plaquemines shoreline.
The design includes fill for a beach and dune plus 20-years
of advanced maintenance fill, as well as fill for marsh
creation/nourishment. The location of the type and amount
of sediment needed to construct this project already has been
identified under the East Grand Terre Project that is presently
under construction. Approximately 127 acres of beach/dune
fill would be constructed and approximately 259 acres of
marsh creation/nourishment would be constructed. Intensive
dune plantings would be conducted by seeding and installing
approved nursery stock. About half of the
marsh platform would be planted with cordgrass and
portions of the dune, swale, and marsh would be planted
with appropriate woody species. Containment dikes would
be breached no later than year three to allow tidal exchange
with the created marsh.

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The project is located in Region 2, within the Barataria Basin
portion of Plaquemines Parish.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 19.

The Cheniere Ronquille Barrier Island Restoration project sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.