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“Floating Islands” project blazes new trail for marsh restoration

CCA Building Conservation Program and partners set to reclaim Louisiana marsh

TERREBONNE PARISH, LA – CCA’s Building Conservation Habitat Program, in partnership with Shell Oil Company, Terrebonne Parish Government, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, America’s Wetlands, Entergy and Enterprise Products, will launch a restoration project later this month to rebuild part of the coastline in Terrebonne Parish utilizing the unique “Floating Islands” product.

With just slivers of marsh remaining in some areas along the coast, the restoration project will use the Floating Islands’ matrix, which is made of recycled plastic, to plant native species and allow them to grow a root system to the water bottom. The plants will trap sediments and eventually grow toward and tie into the remaining marsh, strengthening it into a sustainable, flourishing mass.

“This is a great initiative where students from local schools – Pointe Aux Chene Elementary and Montegut Middle School – and other local volunteers will be participating to save their marsh,” said John Walther, chairman of CCA Louisiana’s Habitat Committee. “The Floating Island matrix is designed to give the plants a better anchor to the bottom and increase the likelihood that they will take hold and begin to grow outward. The ultimate goal is to find a way to increase the amount of marsh we have by tying these new plants into existing marsh. We’re going to fight to take our marsh back one foot at a time.”

The project is the first to use “floating islands” technology, developed by Martin EcoSystems, in an open-water application in the marine environment, although the technique has been used for shoreline stabilization in conjunction with hurricane protection levees in south Louisiana. Plans call for about 1,500 linear feet of the islands to be installed in this project using two types of marsh grass – smooth cord in the center and seashore paspalum on the edges – to create a habitat component.

“The plants are installed in the matrix onshore and then the matrix is moved to the water for installation. More planting matrix can be added in later stages to expand the area,” explained Walther. “This is a relatively new technique and it holds more promise for shoreline protection than efforts utilizing recycled Christmas trees, for example. This method is also more economical than traditional planting methods and there are plenty of places we could use something cheap and effective along our disappearing coastline.”

CCA members, local students, Shell employees and other volunteers will gather Sept. 23-24 to prepare the mats, each of which is 5 feet by 8 feet and can hold 50 to 60 plants. For those who prefer to pitch in without getting muddy, the public is invited to purchase additional plants for the Terrebonne “Floating Islands” Restoration Project by visiting the CCA Louisiana web site at this link: http://www.ccalouisiana.com/cca11/news/369-floating-island-project.

Both the CCA Building Conservation Habitat Program and the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government have each pledged $50,000 for the project, Entergy has pledged $30,000 and America’s Wetland has donated $10,000  in logistical support, tents, media transport, meals and refreshments.

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The Building Conservation Program was created to provide funding for marine habitat conservation and restoration projects. Thanks to support from Shell Oil Company, program funds are combined with local CCA chapter network volunteer efforts to identify and organize conservation projects, engaging local communities to work together for marine conservation.

In the “floating islands” concept, plant roots grow through the island into the water column below. As water passes through the network of hanging roots underneath the floating matrix, the plant roots remove nutrients and pollutants in the water. These same nutrients provide the food source that the plants need for growth and the result is a “concentrated wetland” effect. Images provided by Martin EcoSystems.


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