NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana has started a selection process to identify part of its coastline the state hopes can be added to the National Estuary Research Reserve program.
If approved, the area would become a site for research projects aimed at better understanding the chosen estuary — an area where the tidal reach of ocean or Gulf waters meets the flow of water from a river. The reserve would also serve as a base for educating students and the general public on the importance of estuary features, including fisheries and wildlife.
The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reports the reserve’s operations would be paid for with a 70-30 split of federal and state funds.
The research program is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Gov. John Bel Edwards notified the federal agency in 2019 that Louisiana was interested in participating in the program, which now includes 29 sites representing distinct types of estuaries, including five in the other four Gulf Coast states.
Louisiana is the only Gulf state without an estuary in the program. The state selection process is being led by Louisiana Sea Grant, with support from the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
Louisiana Sea Grant Director Robert Twilley said six broad areas of Louisiana’s coast are being searched for a potential reserve area: the estuarine zones of the Calcasieu River, Atchafalaya River Basin, Terrebonne Basin, Barataria River, Pontchartrain Basin and the lower Mississippi River.
The area selected would be publicly owned lands and adjacent water that is controlled by the state under “public trust” law. It could also include municipal and nonprofit-owned property, or land that is either donated or purchased from private parties. Protections for the new reserve area would only be implemented under existing state laws and regulations, and would not include any new federal restrictions on use of the land and water.
The selection process generally takes four to six years, Twilley said. The process began Wednesday with two public meetings. The state must show NOAA the site is valuable for research, monitoring and resource protection and is suitable for use for education and interpretation purposes.
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