EDF praises city for breaking ground on first project to restore Central Wetlands Unit
The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish have received praise for breaking ground on the $10 million Central Wetlands Assimilation Project as a vital first step to restore the Central Wetlands Unit, improve storm surge protection and create new jobs.
"The Central Wetlands Assimilation Project is a vital first step to showing that environmental restoration equals economic restoration, creating recreation opportunities, improving habitat and creating new jobs," Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) Mississippi River Delta Restoration Communications Manager Elizabeth Skree said in a press release.
Restoring the entire Central Wetlands Unit has the potential to create 680 direct and indirect restoration related jobs, according to an EDF study released last year. The Central Wetlands Assimilation Project is the first vital step to restore impacted wetlands in the Central Wetlands Unit, a 30,000-acre area of open water east of New Orleans that was once a thriving cypress forest that once provided vital hurricane and storm surge protection to local communities.
However, construction of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) inundated the area with saltwater, killing the cypress trees and leaving behind open water. In 2005, the lack of vegetation in the open water increased storm surge from Hurricane Katrina, worsening the damage it caused in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish.
The Central Wetlands Assimilation Project will provide fresh water and nutrients needed to reduce salinity and encourage plant growth—by redirecting and reusing treated wastewater and effluent from the East Bank Sewage Treatment Plant into the area—rather than discarding all of it in the Mississippi River.
"We applaud the city of New Orleans, St. Bernard Parish, the Sewerage and Water Board and local and state officials for making this project a reality," Skree said. "We also commend our local and community partners and the non-governmental organization community for keeping the momentum going for restoring this area as well as other important Mississippi River Delta ecosystems."