From: Cain Burdeau, Associated Press
Published October 24, 2005 12:00 AM

Debris from Hurricanes May Be Used To Fight Coastal Erosion in Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS — The mountains of debris created by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could be the very stuff to protect Louisiana's ravaged coastline and keep hurricanes at bay.


Louisiana environmental authorities are thinking of grinding up the approximately 50,000 fiberglass boats destroyed in the storms and mixing them with cement to build artificial reefs, and using tree limbs and timber from homes as sediment traps in the marshes.


"We're exploring all sorts of options for waste," said Chuck Brown, an assistant secretary at Department of Environmental Quality. "There's so much of it."


There is a lot to fix along the Louisiana coast. The state has lost about 1,900 square miles of marsh since the 1930s. The loss of wetlands has had lethal consequences: Towns and cities are that much closer to the Gulf of Mexico and its devastating hurricanes.


The chief worry is that using the debris might just poison the coastline.


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"We have to make sure we're not putting toxins into the gulf," said Darryl Malek-Wiley of the Sierra Club's Delta Chapter.


Many of the boats littering the region presumably could be turned into a lot of artificial reefs, which would become refuges for fish and other marine life. Reefs also can act as storm-surge barriers and keep sea bottoms from eroding.


Before the hurricanes, Louisiana was trying to rebuild its reefs to expand the oyster industry and create more habitat for fish.


The wood from trees and homes could be bundled to create fences along the shore and across abandoned oil field canals. The fences would slow down the wave action that gnaws at the coast. They also could trap sediment.


Recycling wood is not a new idea in coastal restoration. Since 1990, it has been a wintertime ritual for New Orleanians to see their old Christmas trees strapped together into brush fences and laid out in the marshes.


By 2003, 1.2 million Christmas trees had been put into the marshes to form about eight miles of brush fence. That may sound impressive, but scientists say the trees have not accomplished much because of the sheer vastness of Louisiana's land loss.


Source: Associated Press


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