PORT FOURCHON, LA - On April 21, 2017, sixteen employees from Shell Oil Company joined the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program to take part in a wetlands planting project on the Port Fourchon ridge and marsh north of Port Fourchon.

The goal of the project is to create sustainable ridge and marsh habitat located along the Bayou Cochon area. To make the area more resilient to storms and flooding, and create habitat for neotropical songbirds that reside in Louisiana or migrate through the Mississippi Flyway, the group planted 398 beneficial native woody species and herbaceous plants, including red mulberry, yaupon holly, persimmon, live oak, honeylocust, roughleaf dogwood, wax myrtle, Hercules-club, American beautyberry and hackberry.

"These ridges are like islands in a sea of salt marsh providing critical habitat for the Neotropical migratory birds on their long journeys each spring and fall," said Matt Benoit, BTNEP Habitat Restoration Coordinator. “In the 2017 Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Master Plan for Coastal Restoration project types such as ridge restoration and marsh creation play a critical part in not only creating new land but in providing a way to improve wave and storm attenuation features for the local communities.”

In addition to providing sweat equity to the project, volunteers were shown a presentation about the upcoming Port Fourchon-Mars Pipeline Wetlands Project, and given a tour of existing port facilities and activities.

In 2016, Shell Oil Company and the BTNEP came together to form the SMART program in this estuarine complex that encompasses the 4.2 million acres of wetlands, ridges, forests, farmlands, and communities between the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River Basins in southeast Louisiana. SMART stands for Saving Marshes And Ridges Together. The SMART program, funded by a $1 million contribution from Shell, takes plants grown at Nicholls State University Farm in Thibodaux, LA, to be planted on newly created ridges and surrounding marshes in lower Lafourche (Port Fourchon Ridge and Marsh and Port Fourchon-Mars Pipeline Wetland Projects) and Plaquemines (Tiger Pass/Spanish Pass Ridge and Marsh Project, and Bayou Dupont and Grand Liard Ridge and Marsh Projects) Parishes.

SMART also creates volunteer opportunities for the public, locally and nationally, as well as partners joining the project from companies like Shell. For more information on BTNEP and its volunteer program, visit www.BTNEP.org.

Contributed Report