NEW ORLEANS -- On the lower rim of Barataria Bay, Gov. Bobby Jindal's entourage walks on land on Shell Island that he says was open water just two weeks ago.
“Many of you remember during the oil spill we started these islands by building berms,” Jindal said. “We’ve now fortified those berms into these islands.”
Crews are piping sediment from the Mississippi river 20 miles away here to Shell Island, where workers use bulldozers to build up the land.
Scofield Island had washed away to the point it was almost covered with open water before the oil spill.
Now river sediment has provided just over two miles of new shoreline.
Jindal says erosion also washed away Pelican Island, just east of Shell Island.
Now sediment from offshore dredging has helped build the island back to almost two and a half miles of shoreline.
The governor and his offshore specialist Garrett Graves say the state is building these islands with sediment from dredging the corps of engineers does to keep the river open for shipping.
“The corps of engineers spends a $180 million a year every year dredging the Mississippi River and the waste the sediments,” Graves said.
Jindal said, “Year after year they simply dump that sediment out in the outer continental shelf where it doesn’t do any good.”
Jindal said these islands provide a first line of defense from hurricanes and from storm surge.
“These islands will help protect Jefferson Parish, Lafourche, Plaquemines, several other areas,” Jindal said.
“It's taking science and going back to nature with it. The natural way of building land here in Louisiana was with the Mississippi River,” said Lafourche Parish Parish President Charlotte Randolph.
For Mayor Tim Kerner of Jean Lafitte, whose community has flooded five times in seven years and is fighting for survival, this offers hope.
“It makes me feel like for once somebody cares and we'll be protected and we'll be able to exist,” Kerner said.
But Jindal said the federal government has to be part of this.
Six years after Congress authorized billions for coastal restoration projects, it has yet to appropriate a single dollar for it. Instead, he says the feds keep spending millions on studies.
“We don’t need more studies,” Jindal said. “We need to be building.”
Jindal says the state will use $100 million from an early BP payment to add one to the 1.3 mile shoreline on Shell Island.