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, subsidence, and wetland deterioration are serious problems affecting Louisiana’s coastal zone. 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 with 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. Dozens of acres of marsh and chenier ridge habitat have been restored to the Port Fourchon landscape, and work continues to better preserve and protect this important environmental feature that preserves and protects the port.
- 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 of port property and an environmental enhancement project. As part of the initial permit application process, the port did the unthinkable: we went beyond minimum mitigation requirements and offered an unsolicited, forward-thinking proposal 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. It has also driven Port Fourchon to be a voice for responsible development, making the best of our abundant natural resources and planning for the greater good of both industry and environment.
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
- The Water Institute of the Gulf