Our first stop was the New Canal Lighthouse Museum, an homage to the hard work Pontchartrain Conservancy (PC) has accomplished and our plans for the future of our changing coast. Over the lifetime of our organization, we have improved water quality around the basin reclaiming Lake Pontchartrain and the Bogue Falaya, Tchefuncte, and Tangipahoa Rivers for swimming and recreation. On the coast and inland, we have restored 315 acres of swamp. Through our education program, we teach thousands of students each year about the importance of our basin.
Next, we visited the 17th St. Canal Permanent Canal Closures and Pumps (PCCP) station. The pumping station one of three stations that finished construction this summer, and is outfitted with 8 pumps, 16 5 2.6 megawatt generators, and a series of seven gates that partition the canal from the Lake Pontchartrain. When a storm approaches and the lake levels rise, the gates are closed creating an enclosed basin. Pump station 6, located further down the 17th St. Canal and staffed by the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, pushes rainwater from the city to the 17th St. Canal Station. The PCCP is responsible for pumping that water into the lake at 2,500 cubic feet per second! That's equivalent to pumping enough water to fill an Olympic swimming pool in 10 seconds!
We ended our tour at the mouth of Bayou St. John, one of the only urban marshes in New Orleans. Previously the bayou was used to reach the port of New Orleans, but decades later, it was closed off by a new levee system and extension of the lake's shoreline. Cut off the flow of the lake, Bayou St. John became mostly stagnate. As a result, the Orleans Levee Board decided to reconnect the lake to the bayou in 2013, offering PC an opportunity to create an urban wetland. Through our marsh recreation program we planted 5,000 plugs of 8 native grass and sedge species, and since then new plants such as trees and shrubs have moved in. Today the urban marsh is used for environmental education. It is also home to many birds, a playground for local fisherman, and provides additional protection for adjacent levees.