When celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, be sure to think about all of the ways wetlands provide for you and yours. Whether you enjoy the serene experience of watching a sunset through bald cypress trees, catching redfish in the marsh with your family, or simply love a good shrimp po-boy, Louisiana wetlands provide a huge number of services to millions of people daily.
In addition to protecting our cities from storm surge, wetlands of all kinds host tremendous species diversity, are highly productive, and allow for many types of recreation. Louisiana provides seafood nationwide. All of our most profitable species use wetlands for some part of their life cycle.  For example, shrimp spawn in estuaries, crawfish spend their whole semi-aquatic lives in freshwater wetlands, and oysters occupy coastlines while providing some wave attenuation and water filtration. CWPPRA and our partners see oysters as an alternative method to protect our some parts of our coast with artificial reefs that can also be harvested, making them a highly sustainable food source. Some foods we receive from wetlands aside from seafood include turtles and ducks in some cases, rice (a staple in many cultures worldwide), and a wide array of other plants for their tubers or berries.
Beyond the food, though, wetland benefits include flood protection to our major cultural hubs and carbon sequestration. Sequestering carbon makes wetlands wildly productive and an ally in the fight against global climate change.  CWPPRA was written into law in 1990 to help preserve these bountiful ecosystems so they can continue to thrive and benefit people in Louisiana and beyond. This holiday season, even if you are not eating any seafood during your feasts, you are benefitting from wetlands, so say a thank you for all of those natural areas that give us so much.
The coastal restoration community has long recognized the benefits of vegetative plantings in restoration. Many marsh creation and most terracing projects require plantings to insure success. Coastal shoreline plantings have also proven to be very effective and some have demonstrated the ability to not only stop shoreline erosion but to facilitate accretion, the process of increasing sediments. Recent hurricane events have exposed a need to have a mechanism in place where large-scale planting efforts can be deployed in a timely manner to specifically targeted areas of need, anywhere along the coast. Although the CWPPRA program can fund specific largescale planting projects, the normal program cycle for individual projects can delay needed restoration plantings for a number of years.
The goals of this project are to facilitate a consistent and responsive planting effort in coastal Louisiana that is flexible enough to routinely plant on a large scale and be able to rapidly respond to critical areas of need following storm or other damaging events. This project set up an advisory panel consisting of representatives from various state and federal agencies who would assist in the selection of projects for funding. The project also set up a mechanism by which project nominations would be submitted for consideration. The equivalent of 90 acres of interior marsh and 40,000 linear feet of coastal shoreline will be planted per year over a 10 year period to effectively create/protect a total of 779 net acres of marsh over the 20-year project life.
The project features are located in the coastal zone of Louisiana.
This project is on Priority Project List 20. Three sites have been planted with Year One funding, and three sites are scheduled to be planted in 2014 with Year Two funding.
Federal Sponsor: NRCS
Local Sponsor: CPRA
Wetland ecologists often refer to wetland vegetation as the foundation of coastal restoration. Native plants and vegetative plantings both provide significant benefits to wetlands. Wetland plants build and stabilize soil, create habitat, purify water, and shield infrastructure. These plants tend to accumulate the thick mud of marshes which prevents the soil from washing away. Animals that live in wetlands depend on plants or plant-eating animals for their food supply. Without wetland vegetation, the supply chain would self-destruct. By absorbing nutrients and chemicals from the water and sediment, plants reduce toxins and groundwater contamination. Wetland vegetation is key to preventing shoreline erosion and reducing storm surge which affects the coastal infrastructure.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act funds a variety of wetland enhancement projects, such as vegetative planting. Vegetative planting is the process of planting by hand or aerial seeding to shore up eroding banks and jump-start plant colonization.
You can read more about CWPPRA Projects that use the vegetative planting restoration technique by clicking here.
In 1963, the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) was designated as Louisiana’s official state tree. The bald cypress’s deciduous character, unlike most conifers gives, it a “bald” appearance. This type of tree is rather majestic and can be spotted in the swamps of Louisiana. It has a swollen, ridged trunk at the base; widespread branches; reddish-brown bark; and roots that often cause what we know as cypress knees to appear around the tree. Although the bald cypress is widely adaptable, it prefers to grow in wet, swampy soils. Riverbanks, floodplains, and wet depressions are specific areas in which the bald cypress thrives.
Bald cypresses provide habitat benefits to terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. The Louisiana forestry industry is also dependent on these cypress trees to contribute to a productive annual harvest with large monetary returns on the lumber and cypress mulch produced. The Atchafalaya Basin makes up a large share of the coastal wetlands, and more the half of the acreage of the Atchafalaya basin is cypress wetland forest. The bald cypresses of the wetlands are important to Louisiana’s culture, animal habitats, and the economy. Maintaining healthy cypress wetlands is critical to maintaining a natural storm buffer, filtering polluted water, providing irreplaceable habitats, and sustaining a thriving economy.
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
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.
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
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.