While the Greater Lafourche Port Commission actively pursues its purpose of stimulating commercial development, it accepts as part of its mission the responsibility of acknowledging the environmental value of the setting in which Port Fourchon is located. Coastal erosion and wetland deterioration are serious problems affecting Louisiana’s coastal zone. With coastal wetland losses of 25 to 30 square miles per year, the long-term social, environmental, and economic consequences of coastal erosion deprive not only Louisiana but also the entire Gulf of Mexico region and the nation as a whole of vitally important fish, wildlife, and other wetland-related economic and environmental benefits.
The Port Commission works diligently to protect and restore the coastal landscape and habitats that surround the port. GLPC has worked closely with federal, state, and local partners to implement, enhance, or champion numerous coastal and environmental restoration projects in and around Port Fourchon, including the port’s Maritime Forest Ridge & Marsh Restoration Project and the Fourchon Beach Repair Project. In some instances, restoration techniques were utilized for the first time on projects done by GLPC, making Port Fourchon an important proving ground for coastal science and restoration techniques. Below are just a few examples of how Port Fourchon works in conjunction with various organizations to protect our coastal landscape.
- Maritime Forest Ridge
When industry demand dictated that slips in the Northern Expansion be widened from 500 feet to 700 feet for deeper access, the Greater Lafourche Port Commission officials were faced with an unexpected situation: What do we do with the millions of cubic yards of additional dredged material that will be produced?
Answer: Create a world-class environmental research and ecotourism opportunity while increasing storm protection for the community.
Over the last 100 years, naturally occurring coastal ridges served as buffers between the Gulf of Mexico and the highly sensitive coastal marshes. As these ridges have disappeared, marsh has become increasingly exposed to coastal erosion. The re-creation of a ridge near Port Fourchon mimics the natural ecology of the system and restores a natural storm surge protection barrier.
The Maritime Forest Ridge & Marsh Restoration Project is a prime example of how the pioneering of scientific and technical advances in coastal restoration science has been fostered by GLPC. The Maritime Forest Ridge project represented the first attempt at restoring elevated chenier forested ridge habitat from open water. With the help of many coastal and environmental partners coupled with generous donations from industry partners, the Port Commission’s ridge has provided vital lessons in plant propagation for restoring these unique habitats, construction techniques, and planting and soil chemistry methodologies.
The ridge is currently over 6,000 feet in length and has served as a test bed and observation point for environmental studies and restoration research for over a decade now. When the ridge is fully constructed, it will stretch for approximately 12,000 linear feet, and about sixty acres of marsh and sixty acres of ridge will be re-created. Ultimately, the project could include walking trails and a coastal/marine ecosystem education center.
- From Mitigation to Marsh Creation
All port expansion and development projects hold impact on the environment as a primary variable in the decision-making process.
Port Fourchon’s Northern Expansion project is both a benchmark development and an environmental mitigation project. As part of its initial permit application process, the port did the unthinkable: it offered an unsolicited mitigation plan that proposed to create an acre of new marsh for every acre of wetland impacted. This yielded a project that has actually enhanced the marsh acreage surrounding the port, turning mostly open water into thriving marsh habitat.
The Port Commission has also been successful at significantly thwarting beach erosion by implementing beach restoration projects since 1986 and offshore segmented breakwaters in 1998. These projects along Fourchon Beach, the port’s first line of defense, are regularly re-nourished, repaired, and rebuilt to maintain the strength and resilience of the coastline for all of the people who live, work, and play in the Fourchon area.
Port Fourchon has quite successfully shown what beneficial use of dredged materials can mean, especially in turning mitigation into marsh creation. Considering environmental impact when planning for infrastructure growth enables the Greater Lafourche Port Commission to create a win-win situation between the environment and the economy.
- Environmental Partners
Port Fourchon is an active member of the region’s environmental community. The port undertakes many worthy restoration projects every year, in conjunction with its valuable environmental partners, in an effort to protect, preserve, and rebuild the fragile environment that surrounds its thriving industrial development.
Port Fourchon works with a wide variety of private and government entities to maintain and further restoration efforts, including but not limited to the following:
- Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP)
- Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL)
- Gulf of Mexico Program
- Gulf of Mexico Foundation
- Les Reflections du Bayou
- Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
- National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- Nicholls State University (NSU)
- Restore or Retreat
- The Sanctuary Group
- USDA-NRCS Plant Material Center
Fourchon offers some of the best fishing in the coastal marshes of Lafourche Parish and provides a surprisingly rich habitat for bird watching.
- Public Recreational Boat Launch
The Irvin P. Melancon Public Recreational Boat Launch in Port Fourchon provides an access point to the abundant sport fishing available around the port. World-class fishing areas along the coast are just a launch away, from one-day fishing trips to a weekend “at the camp.” The Greater Lafourche Port Commission provides this free public boat launch, equipped with a covered pavilion, newly constructed restroom facilities, and ADA accessible ramps, for recreational use only.
- Recreational Fishing
Fishing is a major industry in Louisiana, with one-third of all the nation’s seafood being supplied by the Gulf of Mexico. Port Fourchon is located at the heart of the Central District of Louisiana, which leads the state in landings of seafood. The nearness of the port to Gulf fishing areas reduces expensive travel and increases available fishing time.
Lafourche Parish and Port Fourchon offer world class recreational fishing. Whether it be surf fishing and crabbing along its beach or shoreline or deep sea charter fishing, the port offers numerous opportunities to a wide range of recreational users.
Click below for additional information about charter fishing and other attractions from the Lafourche Parish Tourist Commission.Lafourche Parish Tourist Commission Website
- Fourchon Beach
Louisiana Beaches are alluvial beaches. Though our sand is not as white as Florida’s, the beach waterfront is vibrant with more fish than any other beach area. This is due to the many bayous, rivers, and canals that drop sediment directly into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. Because of this rich environment, the surf fishing off Fourchon Beach is unlike any other.
With a sand beach over three miles long, swimming, surfing, and crabbing are common activities in the beach area.
The public is asked to take every safety precaution when enjoying the beach, especially when young children are involved, and to please help to keep the beach clean, even though it means picking up trash that is not your own.Fourchon Beach is currently closed to the public.
Please see the links below for additional information.
CLICK HERE for the CPRA’s Caminada Headland Beach & Dune Restoration Project webpage.
CLICK HERE for the Lafourche Parish Government’s Boards & Commissions Directory webpage, where you can scroll down to their South Lafourche Beachfront Development District entry for contact information and/or to make inquiries about Fourchon Beach.
CLICK HERE for an interactive map of all of the state’s CPRA Master Plan coastal projects.
CLICK HERE for information on the South Lafourche Beachfront Development District’s creation and responsibilities.
CLICK HERE for a printable version of South Lafourche Beachfront Development District Ordinance No. 0801, which contains the rules for using Fourchon Beach. Please follow these rules to make the beach safe and enjoyable for everyone.
We get many inquiries about the Elmer’s Island beach due to its close proximity to Fourchon Beach. Although Elmer’s Island is not in Port Fourchon or under the Port Commission’s jurisdiction, it is a state beach and has been a popular local recreational area for generations.
For information on Elmer’s Island, please visit the webpage below or contact Julia Lightner at Wildlife & Fisheries at (504) 286-4041.
CLICK HERE for a link to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries Elmer’s Island webpage.
- Birding Opportunities
Fourchon and Grand Isle are two points in South Louisiana that support migratory birds. Birds stop in Fourchon and Grand Isle during both south and north-bound migrations across the Gulf of Mexico. The Port Commission works with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) to conserve the Maritime Forest Ridge as a bird-friendly environment and to preserve bird habitats throughout the Fourchon area.
In fall and spring, migrations of an abundance of birds can be viewed in the Fourchon and Grand Isle areas. BTNEP and the Grand Isle Sanctuary Group sponsor an annual Migratory Bird Festival as spring migration begins. Migratory birds have been known to drop out of the sky out of fatigue as they reach land. Birders from across the country and Canada come to our area to witness the migration.
More bird species can be seen here in one stop than any other spot in the country during migrations. Click below for information about the annual Grand Isle Migratory Bird Festival.Grand Isle Migratory Bird Festival Website