The Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle of today is what is called a “ghost swamp”. Until the 1960s, it was a full of cypress trees, part of the central wetlands system that ran from the Lower 9th Ward all the way to Lake Borgne. But destructive forces — from levee and canal construction to invasive species — turned this freshwater swamp into a saltwater marsh, killing all the cypress trees in the process. You see their dead trunks like scarecrows in the water, and don’t see much else.
When the Wetland Triangle was a swamp it provided the surrounding community with natural resources like fish, game and timber, and protected the area from storm damage and coastal erosion. Most of the wildlife that inhabited the swamp is gone, as is the native vegetation that safeguarded the land.
Now, the Bayou Bienvenue Triangle has been included in the “Master Plan” to restore the Louisiana coast. Few dispute this as good news, but there are varying perspectives on how and why the landscape has changed, and differing opinions on how it should be restored. What happened here? What restoration strategy now makes the most sense for this specific area? Should restoring this small section be prioritized compared to other, larger parts of the central wetlands?
Five people walked out to the Bayou Bienvenue platform, a wooden walkway at Florida and Caffin Avenues, to overlook the land as it is now and consider these questions.
Amanda Moore works for the National Wildlife Federation as Deputy Director of the Mississippi Delta Restoration Program. She helps educate and engage community members as large-scale coastal restoration project move forward. Moore grew up along the Chesapeake Bay, and feels connected to the livelihoods and culture of this type of landscape.
“I feel really passionate about what we are doing in coastal Louisiana,” she says. ”It’s really at the forefront for coastal restoration and its something that communities across the world are going to be facing.”
“Because we’re surrounded by levees, it’s often you really have to have a boat to see the wetlands. Coming up here, just five miles away from downtown and the French Quarter, you can drive right up and see a very dramatic scene. It kind of speaks a thousand words about what is happening to our coast and why the city’s becoming more and more vulnerable every day.”
Support for coastal reporting on WWNO comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Kabacoff Family Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.