BELL CITY, LA (KPLC) - Coastal restoration agencies from across Louisiana met at the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in Bell City to celebrate 20 years of progress in protecting and restoring southwest Louisiana's coast.
The celebration kicked off with a dedication ceremony of the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) that was signed in to legislation 20 years ago this year.
Shortly after the dedication, the agencies took a tour of restoration projects in the wetlands of Cameron and Vermillion parishes.
"We are currently working on 27 projects in southwest Louisiana," said Kevin Norton, a conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Services in Louisiana. "We've had a lot of improvements in the design sighting of the structures of the years."
The projects the agencies are working on range from hydraulic restoration, shoreline protection, and marsh creation.
One particular project that has seen improvements is the "Freshwater Introduction" project near Highway 82 in Vermillion Parish.
In 2000 this area had problems with saltwater intrusion due to the lack of freshwater and nutrient input.
Officials said as of 2006 this area has seen a reduction in salinity levels and an improved drainage system has allowed the area to recover after Hurricane Rita.
While the agencies may be building back the marsh one acre at a time, they are still losing land just as quickly.
"We loose about 34 square miles a year, that's a football field every 40 minutes," said Norton.
That is why officials are already planning for another successful 20 years of restoration in southwest Louisiana.
"If we lose a whole ecosystem, then we lose a whole way of life," said Norton. "This is an important ecosystem that needs to be protected and preserved."
The Freshwater Introduction project covers 19,988 acres and costs $5.08 million.