The promoters want to fill part of Lake Pontchartrain near Mandeville. The neighbors are not happy | Environment
Just west of the causeway of Lake Pontchartrain lies a pocket of unspoiled nature in a rapidly developing parish. Near the old district of Lewisburg, at the mouth of the Chinchuba Bayou floodplain in the parish of St. Tammany, the lakefront land is filled with marsh grasses and cypress trees.
For decades, the developers have had their eyes riveted on the site, their plans still encountering strong opposition from residents, environmental groups, and local and state officials.
But some fear that may soon change. Last year, the current landowners applied for a coastal use permit that would allow them to backfill wetlands and the lake bottom, add a bulkhead and private road, and potentially build four houses.
The St. Tammany Parish government has yet to take a position on the project, but environmental experts say if it happens, it could dramatically alter the ecological landscape and contribute to flooding.
âEveryone wants a piece of heaven,â said Ted Ralph, a neighboring resident and retired federal engineer, pointing to the site of the proposed development from his fishing boat. âThere isn’t enough paradise for everyone anymore, so you have to create a paradise out of wetlands and swamps.â
James Bradford, one of the landowners who applied for the permit, said he expects the permit to be approved as the development is consistent with others along the lake in Mandeville: “Large lots with valuable homes along the lake. “
The project would reclaim the wetlands, extend the shoreline to where it once stood and leave the northernmost wetlands intact, he said, so “from our point of view it is environmentally friendly and will prevent further erosion. of the coast “.
Ultimately, it will be up to the State Coastal Management Board to decide whether or not to grant the permit.
Near the skeletons of dead cypress trees, 2,400 new saplings are planted as a buffer zone against storms on the north shore
John Lopez, a coastal scientist hired by the Lewisburg Civic Association to review the development permit, said the wetlands are healthy enough to support cypress trees, another reason why they are expected to remain underdeveloped. Lopez said the development could exacerbate flooding problems in the Mandeville area by slowing the flow of water from the Bayou Chinchuba watershed into Lake Pontchartrain. A septum could also exacerbate erosion in adjacent areas, he said.
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If the land is filled and a road built, Jack Jenkins, who lives in the neighboring Sanctuary housing estate, fears his neighborhood will be flooded during storms because âthe water in the Chinchuba has nowhere to go … road would act as a dike. ”
Jenkins said his property along the lake shore had eroded quickly over the years and he feared such development would make matters worse.
State environmental agencies said the land infill would displace 2.5 acres of shallow intertidal habitat, including areas where “valuable” submerged aquatic vegetation is known to live, as well as potentially the West Indian manatee, an endangered species. The agencies also raised the potential issue of runoff from the construction site or future sewage or water systems flowing into the Bayou Chinchuba, a designated natural and scenic river.
The State Department of Natural Resources’ biological investigation report on the project found that there was no “need” for the project as there are other lakeside properties available for sale. In the region.
Mandeville Mayor Clay Madden, who lives in the nearby Old Golden Shores neighborhood, located within the city limits, said he was against the development due to possible flooding issues.
Mike Lorino, a member of the St. Tammany Parish Council, which represents the area, said the parish would likely wait for the Army Corps of Engineers to decide whether or not to grant a permit before weighing in. If approved, he said he would have “a lot of questions.”
Agencies ranging from the National Marine Fisheries Service to the US Fish and Wildlife Service objected to previous plans to develop the land, including in 2007 when a previous owner wanted to fill it in and subdivide it into 11 lots.
David Lawton, a Lewisburg resident and opponent of the development, was among dozens of residents who submitted a comment to the Office of Coastal Management in response to the permit application. In his letter, also signed by the Lewisburg Civic Association, he said there was no need to develop the land for expensive residences as other sites are available.
“Every small slice of shoreline, marshes and productive waters washed away harms the lake, aquatic culture, and the birds and animals whose lives depend on this type of habitat,” Lawton wrote.
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