Project to restore Louisiana fishery under consideration

VENICE, La. — A $26 million project to restore marshes at the mouth of the Mississippi River, where Michael Iaconelli won the 2003 Bassmaster Classic, moved one step closer to implementation in April after being deemed one of the year's Top 10 coastal restoration projects.

"There's no question in my mind this project is a win-win situation," the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Bob Love told Bass Times. It just can't lose.

 The Pass a Loutre Restoration Project calls for dredging Pass a Loutre, one of the three main passes at the river's mouth. The pass runs between the Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area to the south and the Delta National Refuge on the north.

 "We lost 20,000 acres on the wildlife management area alone during Hurricane Katrina, and his lost acreage, for the most part, is not coming back," LDWF's Todd Baker said.

 The plan, which came one vote short of approval in 2007, must be approved by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act Task Force in the fall.

 Pass a Loutre once fed the area's marshes before silting up. Now almost all of the Mississippi River's sediment load dumps over the Continental Shelf at the mouths of the river's other two passes.

 A channel, 30 feet deep by 300 feet wide, along half of Pass a Loutre would divert silt from the main river, while cuts called "crevasses" along the pass would allow sediment to flow into the marshes.

 "The crevasses we have built [in the past] were very inexpensive and effective ways to grow marsh," Baker said.

 Dredged spoil would be deposited in the surrounding marshes, and combined with the effects of the crevasses would create an estimated 1,300 acres within a year, Love said.

 Over the 20-year life of the project, about 30,000 acres on either side of the pass would be affected, he said.

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