Locations from which soil is taken to build Louisiana’s earthen levees are called borrow pits or borrow sites Pits vary in size and depth and they’re often left as-is in the landscape after all the needed material is removed. A preliminary plan was developed by LSU researchers to serve as a guide for restoring these mined sites to be productive habitat in support of bio-diversity and recreational fishing.
LSU researchers through Sea Grant funding, Bruce Sharky, professor of landscape architecture at LSU, and graduate assistant Peter Summerlin have devised a plan to turn these literal holes in the ground into productive habitat to promote bio-diversity, outdoor recreation, and education sites. More than 50 borrow sites (already mined or potential sites) exist in parishes on both sides of the Mississippi River. Working closely with Professor Sharky, Peter Summerlin has developed restorations plans for 11 sites in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes.
“Peter has developed plans and designed how these sites could be refigured in terms of topography and vegetation to support fishing, wildlife and education,” said Sharky. Restoration strategies include re-establishing native plants and developing other features so the sites can support native fish and bird species. Additionally, recreational fishing and birding facilities such as board walks, piers and information/education amenities are planned.
All 11 sites are near urban population centers. “The concept is to give people an alternative place for family outdoor recreation and school fieldtrips,” added Sharky. The restored sites also could provide some level of flood and protection.
The concept was presented to the State of Louisiana Department of Wild Life and Fisheries in October. The planning report received a very positive reception and is under consideration for possible future applications for borrow sites throughout the State.
Sharky is hopeful that this initial research will serve as a model for identifying other borrow sites that have potential to be transformed. The end goal is to create a design handbook for borrow pit habitat restoration to apply state-wide.
Copies of the publication Giving Back are available through http://www.lulu.com