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Debris From Interstate 10’s Twin Spans to Create Reefs

Wed July 16, 2008 - Southeast Edition

NEW ORLEANS (AP) A symbol of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction — the badly damaged twin spans of Interstate 10 linking New Orleans and points east — will be turned into lake reefs and provide material for coastal restoration and storm protection projects.

With new bridges being built across Lake Pontchartrain, about 50,000 linear ft. (15,200 m) of concrete will be left behind. In the past, it would have been bound for a landfill.

Instead, it will be used to help aquatic life and protect against future hurricanes, a cause that’s taken on renewed importance since the August 2005 storm.

The first project will use about 2,000 ft. (610 m) of concrete to create two artificial reefs in the lake.

Other projects could help protect parts of the region beyond the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 100-year-storm standard for levee construction, Gov. Bobby Jindal said at a June 10 news conference.

Jindal said the work will make families and properties safer.

The idea for reefs came from Dudley Vandenborre, a New Orleans-area fishing guide who heard about plans to tear down the old twin spans, temporarily in service. The first new span is set to open in 2009, followed by the second in 2011.

“Alabama has been doing it for years,” Vandenborre said of using old highway material for reefs. “I thought it would be great for Louisiana to have the same program.”

Plans call for the concrete being moved to barges and broken into smaller pieces. After that, the concrete will be taken to two sites, each about an acre in size, and placed on the lake bottom.

If all works out, marine organisms will attach to the reef, attracting small fish in search of food, and, in turn, larger fish to provide good fishing.

The sites are within a 3,200-acre (1,300 ha) section of the lake between the twin spans and the Highway 11 bridge near the border between St. Tammany and Orleans parishes. Commercial trawling will be prohibited in the areas.

Garret Graves, head of the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, said the state stood to save at least $15 million by using the concrete for coastal projects, instead of importing limestone from other states.

The material could eventually be used to protect up to 18 mi. (29 km) of shoreline and levees, said Carlton Dufrechou, the director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

The reefs likely will be placed during the spring of 2009.

About 10 other proposals to use the debris are being considered by the state Department of Transportation and Development.

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