GeoEngineers’ long relationship with Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) is continuing this summer as a Coastal Engineering Consultants/GeoEngineers team prepares to restore about 13 miles of the Chandeleur Islands.
Historically, this string of barrier islands has helped protect New Orleans’ east flank from hurricanes and storm surges, but they have been steadily shrinking since the 19th century. Hurricanes Georges and Katrina further eroded the islands, eliminating important marsh habitats and increasing New Orleans’ storm risk. Phase 1 of CPRA’s Chandeleur Island Restoration Project, now in pre-construction, will begin to address these issues. A project team led by long-time GeoEngineers partner Coastal Engineering Consultants (CEC) will reinforce nearly half of the island coastline with dredged material and rebuild marsh habitat with a special focus on birds.
“CEC has probably done the most barrier island restoration projects in Louisiana, so no one can match their background,” says Principal Geotechnical Engineer Dave Eley.
It takes a lot of fill material to rebuilding coastlines and marshes, and The Chandeleur Islands are no exception. The GeoEngineers team, led by Senior Geotechnical Engineer Jennie Aguettant, will provide geotechnical characterization, settlement analysis and other recommendations for handling and placing the dredged fill.
As one would expect, accessing the Chandeleur Barrier Islands can be difficult. GeoEngineers is working closely with CEC and other teaming partners to coordinate and stage each project phase. Our team plans to use a combination of amphibious “swamp buggies” and pontoon barges to drill in the marshy conditions surrounding the islands.
In addition to access challenges, the Chandeleur Islands project will be at high risk from hurricanes and other storms in the Gulf of Mexico, during and immediately after construction. CPRA knows the risk firsthand. Previous coastal restoration projects have been badly damaged when storms hit before stabilizing marsh plants had time to establish. Project planners hope to mitigate these risks by carefully timing construction, but no Gulf restoration project can be completely free of the threat of storms.
Once complete, the Chandeleur Islands Restoration Project will significantly improve storm surge protection for New Orleans, restore marsh habitat for vulnerable bird species—and add another marquee coastal restoration project to GeoEngineers’ rapidly growing portfolio.