Restoring Louisiana Wetlands

Rising sea levels and hurricane storm surges have eaten away at Louisiana’s coastline over the years. The state has lost 1,880 square miles of coastland in the last 80 years, according to a recent report, and scientists expect an additional 1,750 square miles will disappear by 2064 if no action is taken to save the coasts.

In an effort to help rebuild the coastline and protect local communities from future storm surges, Lowe’s contributed a $20,000 grant and partnered with Keep Terrebonne Beautiful and the Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association to complete the second phase of their floating islands restoration project in Terrebonne Parish.

Often, underserved communities are written off as unsalvageable.  This project gave residents new hope for their community.
– Wendy Billiot, executive director, Keep Terrebonne Beautiful

Lowe’s Heroes from Lowe’s of Houma joined local schoolchildren and community volunteers to create 600 square feet of shoreline protection along Island Road, which leads to the homes of two Native American tribes in southern Louisiana. Because residents engage in subsistence fishing along this road, the new marsh habitat will sustain marine life and protect vital infrastructure for years to come.

“In South Terrebonne Parish, the best way to help your community is to help restore the wetlands,” said Wendy Billiot, executive director of Keep Terrebonne Beautiful. “The local community appreciates very much that people from other parts of Terrebonne Parish and the state took an interest in helping them protect this part of their community. Often, underserved communities are written off as unsalvageable. This project gave residents new hope for their community.”

Launched in 2011, the coast restoration project uses a “floating island” system developed by Martin EcoSystems to increase the amount of marsh and stabilize the natural shoreline. Unlike other major wetland restoration projects, the floating island approach uses materials that any volunteer can easily manage.

Mats made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles are the foundation of the islands; they were predrilled with 210 holes. Volunteers then added potting soil and 230 plants per mat. The students put the plants in the mats, and Lowe’s Heroes helped carry them to the water’s edge, where professionals hauled them out to the marsh and anchored them in place. The plants will grow a root system and tie into existing marsh. The goal is to increase the amount of marsh from 120 linear feet to 1,500 linear feet.

“This project was Phase II of a very big project and proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that floating islands work,” Billiot said. “We are very proud to have been part of that project, and we hope that Lowe’s and Keep America Beautiful share in that pride with us.”