Landscape Architecture Projects Hone in on Coastal Sustainability in Two Louisiana Communities

A professor at the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture is involved in two projects that are aimed at helping coastal communities of south Louisiana rebuild wetlands and develop recreational uses for waterways that have been damaged during recent hurricanes.

Bruce Sharky is working on both projects through the Louisiana Sea Grant, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sponsored program based at LSU that promotes stewardship of the state’s coastal resources through a combination of research, education and outreach efforts.

Sharky’s first project is focused on Bayou Des Allemands in St. Charles Parish. Its primary objective is to help the city of Des Allemands find an acceptable solution to repairing a damaged portion of the levee that protects it from flooding during tropical storms. The levee is missing a quarter-mile section, which allows flooding in the area; and, the solution currently proposed for the community calls for constructing a levee or flood wall that would cut off the community from the water that is so integral to its way of life. Sharky and his team of graduate students will be researching and designing alternative solutions.

“Our principal objective is to look at ways of providing the protection they need while still enabling them to have their cultural and traditional access to the bayou so they can continue fishing,” Sharky explains.

One of the primary solutions they will be working on involves restoring wetlands in the area. To that end, the project team will develop alternative illustrative plans that depict a coordinated system of restoring wetlands and cypress forest to protect the people, property, and infrastructure in St. Charles Parish. They will also include designs for a system of boardwalk, visitor access and boat put out facilities to enhance use of the bayou.

Sharky’s second project centers on Cameron and Plaquemines parishes, which are on separate ends of Louisiana’s coast but share the same objective. Both are trying to develop new sport and recreational fishing opportunities in waterways that were badly damaged during Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and/or Ike. To that end, Sharky and his team of graduate and undergraduate students will develop plans for sport/recreation boat launches and nature walks using remnant tracts of property in both parishes that have been idle since the hurricanes.

Because of its funding through Sea Grant Sharky’s projects falls under the new multi-disciplinary Coastal Sustainability Studio, which is being codeveloped by the College of Art and Design, the College of Engineering, and the College of Coast and Environment. The Coastal Sustainability Studio is a university-based professional training studio to restore, protect, and sustain America’s Wetland.

Sharky’s projects in Des Allemands, Plaquemines Parish and Cameron Parish are scheduled for completion in the spring of 2010. In the meantime, Sharky is enthusiastic about the experience his students will get from working on issues that deal with coastal sustainability.

“My motivation is to give students a real-world experience and to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to the needs of real people,” he says. “And if I can help the broader community understand that LSU education is making a contribution to the State of Louisiana – especially in the coastal rebuilding process – I will be happy.”