Canal Reclamation at Barataria Preserve


Planning Process

The NPS expects to release an Environmental Assessment (EA) for public review in January 2010. The EA will be available for public review and comment for 30 days. Written comments received on the EA will be reviewed to determine whether any new important issues or reasonable alternatives or mitigation measures have been suggested. If substantive issues are raised which point to the potential for significant impacts, an Environmental Impact Statement would be prepared, otherwise a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is expected.

For More Information

If you have questions about the project or would like more information, please visit
or contact:
Haigler Dusty Pate
Natural Resource Program Manager
504 589-3882 ext 119
Or send email to

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
419 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA 70130

Project Background

As a result of funding made available through the 2009 enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the National Park Service (NPS) is soliciting public comments on a proposed project that would reclaim more than 20 miles of canals in the Barataria Preserve, a unit of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. The proposed project would restore functions, resources, and values related to hydrology in the park that are affected by non-historic canals and spoilbanks, and increase the resiliency of park ecosystems to subsidence, sea level rise, and storm events.

Potential alternatives include the reclamation of canals by degrading their spoilbanks and dikes built by developers to the level of the surrounding wetlands, and partially filling the open water with this material. This is a restoration technique that has been widely used in wetland habitats in southeast Louisiana, and has previously been used successfully in the Barataria Preserve.

Oil and gas exploration, development, and transportation, along with unsuccessful residential development projects, have scarred the landscape of the Barataria Preserve with man-made canals and drillslips (canals). More than 590 acres of the Preserve are directly affected by these non-historic canals and associated spoilbanks and dikes, and more than 20 linear miles of canals have been identified for reclamation throughout the preserve.

Canals and their associated spoilbanks alter hydrology and have both a direct and an indirect role in Louisiana’s land loss problem. Directly, canals have turned marsh to open water and spoilbanks have replaced marsh with an upland environment. Indirectly, spoilbanks restrict water flow above and below the marsh surface and can cause both increased flooding and drying of the marsh behind them.

This hydrologic alteration can limit sediment deposition, stress marsh vegetation, increase subsidence, and lead to marsh deterioration. Other impacts include amplification of tidal volumes and increased saltwater intrusion. In addition, the vegetated communities in wetlands adjacent to canal dredging sites have changed, and the canals and spoilbanks are now colonized by exotic species. Wetlands benefit coastal communities by providing protection from flooding, helping to maintain water quality, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife, including estuarine organisms, wintering waterfowl, and neotropical migrant birds. The loss of these wetland functions due to the construction of canals continues to adversely affect the Preserve.

NPS policies call for the restoration and active management of resources damaged or compromised in the past, including wetlands and floodplains. In addition, the legislation creating the park specifically instructs that the freshwater drainage patterns, vegetative cover, integrity of ecological and biological systems, and water quality be preserved and protected within the Barataria Preserve (16 U.S.C 230a(c)). Canals impede natural functions and undermine the ability of the park to preserve and protect those values.



Purpose and Need for Project

The purpose of this project is to restore functions, resources, and values related to hydrology in the park that are affected by non-historic canals and spoilbanks; and increase the resiliency of park ecosystems to subsidence, sea level rise, and storm events. This project is needed at this time because:
The indirect effects of canals and spoilbanks on the park are continual stressors on park resources and values, with continued adverse effects on natural hydrology, ecology, water quality, and wetland functions and values.
Combined with other sources of cumulative adverse impacts, canals have resulted in increased rates of land loss in the park, the Barataria estuary, and throughout coastal Louisiana.
The NPS currently has an opportunity to fund the restoration of resources affected by canals and spoilbanks in the park in part because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The work would create jobs in the local economy, which is a goal of this legislation.

Public Comment

The NPS is inviting the public to provide input regarding this project, also known as Public Scoping. Issues and concerns from the public, government agencies, and organizations will assist the NPS in preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA). Public comments will be accepted until October 31, 2009. Submit comments to:
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
419 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
Attn: Canal Reclamation at Barataria Preserve

Online at: (click on project)
By email to:

Please be sure to include your full name and address with the comments so we may add you to our mailing list for information on the planning process.
Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, be advised that your entire comment including your personal identifying information may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold from public review your personal identifying information, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Project Objectives

The objectives of the project are to:

  • Restore wetland functions and values (hydrology water, sediment, and nutrient movement/vegetation/access for estuarine organisms/wildlife habitat )
  • Improve visitor experience.
  • Avoid or minimize adverse impacts to park resources and values.
  • Improve the resiliency of park ecosystems in the face of subsidence and climate change impacts – sea level rise and intensified tropical storms


Send your comment to the National Park Service


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply