EWN Publications

Beneficial use of dredged sediment as a sustainable practice for restoring coastal marsh habitat

Burton Suedel, Andrew McQueen, Justin Wilkens, Christina Saltus, Scott Bourne, Joseph Gailani, Jeffrey King, and Jeffrey Corbino
July 27, 2021

About This Publication

Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management

Coastal Louisiana (USA) continues to sustain immense land and habitat losses due to subsidence, sea-level rise, and storm events. Approximately 65 million m3 (85 million cubic yards) of sediment is dredged annually from Gulf Coast federal navigation channels to maintain safe waterway passage. The beneficial use of these sediments continues to increase, and now this sediment is recognized as a critical resource in large-scale (estimated multibillion dollar) ecosystem restoration efforts to mitigate land and habitat losses along the US Gulf Coast. However, the documentation of restoration benefits where dredged sediments are the primary resource is lacking, which limits the potential for future applications. Therefore, this study documents the progress to restore marsh habitat and the resultant benefits in West Bay, Louisiana, and investigates how the restoration practices align with principles of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Engineering with Nature® (EWN®) and UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). West Bay, a 4964-ha subdelta adjacent to the Mississippi River, typifies risks of coastal land loss that also threatens the integrity of the adjacent federal navigation channel. To help restore coastal marsh habitat on a large spatial and temporal scale, the USACE constructed an uncontrolled diversionary channel from the Mississippi River and with subsequent direct and strategic placement of dredged sediment. Restoration performance was assessed through remotely sensed methods using data spanning approximately 70 years. To date, placement of dredged sediment in the bay has facilitated the creation of over 800 ha of new land in the formerly open waters of West Bay. The West Bay restoration project aligns with the principles of the EWN initiative, which supports more sustainable practices to deliver
economic, environmental, and social benefits through collaborative processes and meaningfully integrates 10 of the UN SDGs designed to achieve a better and more sustainable future. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2021;00:1–12. Published 2021. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.