OPINION - Editorial

EDITORIAL: Barriers—the good kind

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Our neighbors to the south have made much progress in the restoration of barrier habitat in Barataria Bay, that shallow Gulf excursion into the vast marshland that stretches north to graze the New Orleans metro.

The restoration of beach and dune and back-barrier marsh will prove instrumental to future hurricane defense and help bring back lost wildlife and plant habitat. A quick glance at a satellite map reveals a fragile south Louisiana coast seemingly disintegrating into the Gulf of Mexico.

Tornado alley--which now seemingly stretches along interstate highway from Hope to Forrest City--has got nothing on the annual battering of the Gulf Coast. And greater New Orleans, home still to more than 1.2 million, is particularly vulnerable. One of the more powerful sights in New Orleans, even if you include achitecture, is to walk down a street and look up to see a giant ship passing, above you. And knowing, if not for that levee . . . . And cities--well, towns--all along the Louisiana coast are turning into little Venices.

"The more land I have between me, wherever I'm standing, and the Gulf of Mexico as a hurricane is approaching, the better I feel, the better off we are," Bren Haase of Louisiana's Coastal Preservation and restoration authority, told the Associated Press. "Those natural barriers are very, very important."

So far, 251 acres of beach and dune and 147 acres of back-barrier marsh have been added at West Grand Terre Island, one of the barrier outposts guarding entrance into Barataria Bay, known to all who've visited Grand Isle. The mighty Mississippi is being dredged near Venice, and the mud/dirt is to be used to create seven miles of new marsh and ridges, the latter high enough to plant trees.

The dredge will protect the marshland habitat from erosion and slow storm surges. When complete, it will account for 10.8 million cubic yards of Mississippi mud, enough to fill the Empire State Building almost eight times, the AP reports.

Meanwhile, another 1,600 acres of marsh and ridges are being laid at Spanish Pass; another barrier island, Timbalier, has been enlarged to the tune of 1,000 acres and 8.6 miles of beach; and a 2,800-acre marsh is being created near Shell Beach. All this in addition to thousands of acres of new barrier already established.

All these projects are running in the hundreds of millions of dollars, of course. But this is a legit government expense. And fortunately, there's a coupon: the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, established in the 2013 aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill and funded through penalties paid by BP and others. It holds about $2.5 billion, half of which is dedicated to barrier restoration in Louisiana.

So, let the good times roll. Who dat. Raise that window down. How's yo' mama and dem?

Louisiana has been working on coast restoration for decades now. It's about time we've seen some good news.

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