Creating a partnership to revitalize and increase access to rivers, lakes, and streams in the New Orleans area and habitat restoration in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week’s report — two in every state — as part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state of Louisiana, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Louisiana and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Louisiana highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Urban Water Initiative
As one of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership’s seven pilot locations, the City of New Orleans is collaborating with state agencies, local NGOs, and the federal government, to revitalize and increase access to rivers, lakes, and streams in an area that has been damaged by recent natural disasters.
Lake Pontchartrain, an estuary that connects to the Gulf of Mexico, continues to recover from lingering impacts of Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Spill. Notwithstanding these challenges, it has also become an important center for recreation and education opportunities. It covers over 630 square miles, serving six Louisiana parishes and 1.5 million people.
Urban residents rely on lakeshore access for important recreational opportunities. To that end, the Partnership is working on initiating the Lafitte Corridor Greenway, a multi-use recreational path that will link a network of parks, playgrounds, and community centers to the lake and to each other.
Other Partnership projects include developing environmental and historical education programs on the area’s ecology and maritime industry, improving water quality, rebuilding recreational facilities, and engaging local youth to design signage for completed projects. One specific project is the construction of a fishing pier in Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge. The pier will increase recreational opportunities and access for refuge visitors.
These efforts are community-generated and community-led, but they are supported by a wide variety of federal agencies and other partners.
Restoration of Lake Pontchartrain Basin
Over the past decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided recommendations and technical assistance regarding water quality and wetland restoration programs and projects in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. Using funds from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also restored wetlands on Goose Point Marsh and on Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge.
The next significant project in the Basin would create marshland in the Bayou Bonfouca, in St. Tammany Parish. Hydraulically dredged material from Lake Pontchartrain would be used to create and nourish 575 acres of marsh, providing valuable habitat. Crews will construct tidal creeks to provide tidal connectivity and access for marine organisms. This project will create approximately 424 net acres over the 20-year project life. Currently, the project is in the engineering and design phase and will require additional financial and technical assistance to be completed.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Louisiana, for example, the Department could provide technical and financial support for the creation of marsh in Bayou Bonfouca.
The Department could also continue to provide technical and financial support for the Lafitte Corridor Greenway, construction of a fishing pier in Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge, and other projects through the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government’s role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.
(From Interior press release)