Eva Hillmann and John Lopez
In the early 2000s, the Bucktown Mitigation Marsh (BMM) was created to mitigate for six-acres of harbor dredging and 17-acres of land reclamation activities related to construction of the Coast Guard Station on the Metairie-Hammond Hwy in Jefferson Parish (JP). The marsh was planted with about 9,000 individual clumps of Spartina alterniflora (cordgrass); marsh creation was officially completed in 2005 just before Hurricane Katrina, which had minimal impact on the new marsh. The Pontchartrain Conservancy (PC) then contracted monitoring of the new marsh from 2005-2011. Monitoring at the time indicated that the marsh was developing into a normal, intermediate marsh.
The JP Coastal Division and the PC re-partnered in 2018 to evaluate the current state of the marsh and the adjoining park ahead of extensive lakefront restoration from Bucktown Harbor Marina to the Bonnabel boat launch. For perspective, the BMM is but one in a small chain of created, restored or remnant lakefront wetlands along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain that provide critical habitat for priority species of fish and birds, storm surge protection for communities in Orleans and Jefferson parishes and recreational opportunities for the people that live there. These sparse habitats are important!
We’ve now been monitoring this marsh for two years, and monitoring revealed that the BMM is functioning as a healthy, early successional intermediate marsh. Soil salinity appears to be decreasing, and the marsh may be transitioning to fresh marsh. The species pool we’ve identified is mostly “intermediate,” though some strictly “fresh” species are present. No “highly salt tolerant” species were identified. Year over year, the marsh is getting healthier- vegetation cover is increasing, as is the presence of high value plant species. Soil properties are slower to change, but are similar to other constructed marshes in the area at this age. Ground elevation across BMM is slightly lower than the target elevation for constructed marshes, but this does not seem to be negatively impacting the marshes integrity. The BMM is very resilient!
Over the last two years, we’ve also been checking up on planted trees in the adjacent park area, and most of those trees are also in good health! We are aware that what the park needs is more shade for people and more food sources for birds. Therefore, we’ve been fortunate to work with the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation this past year, who coordinated a park tree planting with the PC and the football team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who came last December (2019) and planted over 65 additional trees in the park with us.
This marsh fits within the Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy; integrating coastal restoration into the surge defense system around Greater New Orleans and Jefferson Parish’s levee. Further, a resilient BMM will anchor the future living shoreline between the Bonnabel boat launch and Bucktown Harbor Marina. With the newly constructed marsh boardwalk now open to the public, we encourage everyone to come out and see what’s new at Bucktown. The view is truly phenomenal!