Port Commission Wins National Environment Award, Partnership with NSU Recognized

2015 AAPA Environment Award

Greater Lafourche Port Commission director and board members recognize Nicholls State University President Bruce Murphy and biology professors Allyse Ferrarra and Quinton Fontenot for their contribution to the Port Commission’s award-winning beach restoration project (not pictured: GLPC Board President Perry Gisclair).

(GALLIANO, LA) – At its regular board meeting, the Greater Lafourche Port Commission showcased its latest national award for environmental restoration and recognized Nicholls State University as a valuable partner on the award-winning project.

The Port Commission was awarded the 2015 Environmental Enhancement Award by the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) for its Beach and Dune Restoration Geotube Project, which restored approximately one mile of beach and dune habitat at Port Fourchon.

Fourchon Beach is the first line of defense for Port Fourchon, which services over 90 percent of all deepwater Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production, accounting for approximately 20 percent of the nation’s energy supply. The Fourchon Beach area sustained extensive damage from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Isaac.

The Port Commission’s project restored approximately one mile of this critical beach and dune habitat by utilizing over 250,000 cubic yards of sand to fill and cover a 30-foot diameter “geotube.” Geotubes are large fabric mesh tubes pumped full of a sand and water mixture. The water is able to seep through and escape the mesh, leaving only extremely hard-packed sand behind in the tube and creating a solid barrier, which is then covered with more sand and vegetated.

The geotube project provides significant and lasting benefits to the natural environment, protecting the fragile back barrier marsh and beach headland along Fourchon Beach. The beach at Fourchon offers critical hurricane and storm surge protection to Port Fourchon and the Gulf’s critical energy infrastructure in the region.

“While it’s great to build this beach and dune back, we understood that the project wouldn’t be able to last long in that environment without plants to help hold it together. That’s when we approached Nicholls State University about helping us to protect this investment with a series of plantings, and we are very grateful that they have done so much to help us keep our beach intact,” said Chett Chiasson, Executive Director of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission.

To date, Nicholls State University’s Department of Biological Sciences has planted over 16,500 stems of bitter panicum, a salt-tolerant beach grass perfectly suited to beach conditions. NSU biology students and faculty grow thousands of such wetland plants at the university’s farm in Thibodaux for applied research like this project.

“Having an environmentally conscious organization like the Greater Lafourche Port Commission collaborate with Nicholls students on service-learning opportunities encourages them to connect with their community and gain a firsthand understanding of the impact they can make as future biologists,” said Nicholls President Bruce Murphy. “Nicholls is very proud of its biology faculty and students for becoming leaders in preserving and protecting Louisiana’s vulnerable coastline.”

This is not the first environmental award for Port Fourchon. Previous awards recognizing GLPC’s environmental stewardship and restoration works include an Honorable Mention for this same AAPA Environmental Enhancement award in 2006, a 2nd place EPA Gulf Guardian award in 2006, and a Coastal Stewardship Award by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana in 2014.

“We have always understood that the more we can do to protect the coast, the more we are really protecting our port, our community, and our environment. Projects like this one, and the awards they win are not possible without great partners like Nicholls State,” said Perry Gisclair, GLPC Board President.

For more information about the project, CLICK HERE for a project background summary.