NEW ORLEANS — A two-year marshland restoration project has closed nearly half the area usually open for hunting in the nation’s largest urban national wildlife refuge just ahead of hunting season, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday.
Nearly 2,000 acres of the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge are closed while the Army Corps of Engineers restores 147 acres of brackish marsh in ponds cleared by Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge in 2005, refuge manager Shelley Stiaes said.
“Teal season opens up this weekend. That’s an area where a lot of hunters go,” Stiaes said in an interview Tuesday. “We’ll have to ask them to go to Brazilier Island or other parts of the refuge outside the hurricane protection levee.”
Saturday is opening day of Louisiana’s 16-day season for the small ducks.
Only youth hunting is allowed on Bayou Sauvage, which covers about 24,000 acres in eastern New Orleans.
Plans call for closing the area through September 2018 while the Corps compensates for refuge habitat lost to levee work along the lake after the 2005 hurricane, which did extensive damage to levees on the lake’s south shore.
The Corps is pumping sediment from Lake Pontchartrain into the unwanted ponds between Irish Bayou Straight Canal and Chef Pass.
The Turtle Bayou Marsh Creation Project will improve the refuge’s waterfowl and fishing habitat for years to come, Stiaes said.
The marsh being restored was broken up by Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge, Stiaes said, and the new marshland will also help protect the levee, and therefore eastern New Orleans.
“It creates a wavebreak before the storm surge gets to the levee. It’s almost like a double wall,” Stiaes said.
The refuge is near New Orleans’ eastern end, between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne, near the Interstate 10 bridge from New Orleans to Slidell.