USA: BOEM to Use OCS Sand for Coastal Restoration

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that it executed an agreement to use more than 10 million cubic yards of sand from the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for coastal restoration projects in Cameron and Lafourche parishes.

BOEM signed two separate negotiated noncompetitive leases with the state of Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority for the projects earlier this month.

“Preserving the Gulf Coast’s diverse and sensitive habitats is important to the region’s ecology and economy, and BOEM’s OCS sand program is central to these efforts,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “BOEM will continue to work with the state of Louisiana to restore and protect its coastal resources.”

One of these projects, the Cameron Parish Shoreline Restoration Project, will restore more than eight miles of beach and dune habitat extending from the town of Holly Beach east to Calcasieu Pass. This shoreline suffered significant erosion as a result of Hurricane Rita in 2005 and hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008, compromising the integrity of Louisiana Highway 82 and risking exposure of over 40,000 acres of unique brackish and freshwater wetlands to higher salinity Gulf waters. Up to 5 million cubic yards of OCS sand will be excavated from Sabine Bank, located approximately 21 miles offshore of Cameron Parish in federal waters, to construct the project.

The Caminada Headland Shoreline Restoration Project, located in Lafourche Parish, will restore 280 acres of beach and dune habitat using up to 5.2 million cubic yards of OCS sand from Ship Shoal, located approximately 10 miles offshore of Terrebonne Parish and 27 miles from the project site. The project will protect the important interior wetlands within the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary and the significant offshore energy production and support infrastructure at Port Fourchon.

Caminada Headland is the most rapidly eroding shoreline in the nation, at rates of approximately 30 meters per year over the last 125 years. Breaching of the headland shoreline by storms has resulted in Gulf waters intruding into fragile brackish water wetlands. Loss of sand from the coastal system has decreased its ability to naturally recover from storms. The headland serves as the erosional sand source for the adjacent barrier islands of Grand Isle to the east and Timbalier Island to the west. Strategic nourishment at the headland will result in sand that is introduced remaining in the coastal system for decades and ultimately maintaining shoreline integrity on the flanking barrier islands.

This will be the first time that a Louisiana coastal restoration project will access Ship Shoal as a sand resource. The sand from this shoal was formerly a barrier island that formed from an abandoned Mississippi River delta lobe about 7,000 years ago, similar to the modern barrier island systems in Louisiana. The approximately 1 billion cubic yards of sand contained in Ship Shoal is a perfect match for nourishing Louisiana’s barrier islands.

These projects are part of the overall federal effort to work with Gulf Coast communities to help rebuild coastal marshes, replenish damaged beaches, conserve sensitive areas for wildlife, and restore barrier islands and wetlands that provide natural protection from storms. These efforts to restore critical coastal resources will help to promote the long-term resiliency of the communities that depend on the Gulf of Mexico and its environment for their livelihood and enjoyment.

BOEM manages non-energy minerals obtained from the ocean floor, including OCS sand for coastal restoration and protection. BOEM has the authority to convey, on a noncompetitive basis, the rights to OCS sand, gravel, or shell resources for shore protection; beach or wetlands restoration projects; or for use in construction projects funded in whole or part or authorized by the federal government. In implementing this authority, BOEM may issue a negotiated non-competitive lease agreement for the use of OCS sand to a qualifying entity. Before a noncompetitive agreement is signed, BOEM (in cooperation with other federal agencies) conducts extensive technical and environmental reviews of the project so that any potential adverse impacts to the marine, coastal and human environments are avoided or minimized.

To date, BOEM has conveyed rights to about 58 million cubic yards of OCS sand for 31 coastal restoration projects in five states. These projects have resulted in the restoration of more than180 miles of the nation’s coastline, protecting billions of dollars of infrastructure as well as important ecological habitat.

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Dredging Today Staff, August 21, 2012

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