“God created the earth, but the Dutch made Holland.”
That old Dutch saying describes a nation where 65 percent of the land would be under water at high tide without canals, dikes and pumps.
500 years ago, Dutch farmers were draining lakes for agricultural use. Holland perfected what we would today call “land reclamation” over the next few centuries. You may not know it, but the iconic Dutch windmills were the pumps that accomplished this work.
The Dutch taught us a lot about coastal reclamation. In the Greater New Orleans area, there aren’t many windmills, but similar techniques were employed to “reclaim” marshes and swamps for agriculture from the Civil War through the 1920’s. Land reclamation around Lake Pontchartrain’s south shore continued in a big way during the Works Progress Administration era (1920s-1940s).
Building levees and digging canals continue to be a big part of coastal land management. However, in 2017, when we talk about “reclamation” we aren’t usually referring to creating land where once there was water. Rather, we’re talking about minimizing the damaging effects the oil and gas industry can have on our ecosystems.
Let’s look at three areas of land management where Stan’s Airboat and Marsh Excavator Service specializes: land reclamation, wetlands restoration and wetlands creation. These are similar concepts, but the differences are important. Just remember—Stan’s has the machines to perform the heavy lifting for all three jobs.
Reclamation is required when a pipeline is decommissioned or if a well is abandoned (typically because it no longer supports oil and gas development or because a mineral lease has expired).
The reclamation process follows soil remediation (if regulations call for it). The goal is to return the landscape to its original state, restore the natural drainage patterns and encourage the growth of vegetation to support the ecosystem as it existed before the pipeline or well was there.
Federal and state laws mandate that the loss of wetlands must be compensated for by the restoration, creation or enhancement of other wetlands. This strategy should result in “no net loss” of wetlands. Today’s oil and gas companies are bound to adhere to guidelines created to protect our unique “Sportsman’s Paradise.”
If you live in the Gulf Coast region, you already know wetlands (swamps, marshes and bogs) serve as a natural habitat for many species of plants and animals. They also absorb the forces of floods and coastal erosion to prevent soil erosion. That’s why wetlands restoration is a big part of pipeline management today.
Restoration may sound like the opposite of the Dutch practice of “land reclamation.” Its definition, according to the law of the land, is the “return of an ecosystem to a close approximation of its condition before disturbance.” Just remember: Today’s pipeline reclamation is all about environmental mitigation, just like wetlands restoration.
Wetlands creation is a third process, one that refers to the establishment of a wetland in an area where there wasn’t one before (or at least not in recent history).
The creation process is accomplished by excavating upland soils (acid loams with gray, loamy or clay subsoils) to an area that isn’t adjacent an existing wetland, then adjusting the water conditions to allow wetlands species of plants and animals to flourish.
In case you missed it: The fresh and saltwater marshes of the Louisiana coastal plain make up the largest expanse of coastal wetlands in the contiguous United States. Human activity, including drilling and pipeline activity, has accelerated the deterioration of these wetlands.
Because the wetlands are the richest and most threatened ecosystem in the country, Stan’s Airboat and Marsh Excavator Service is proud to work with its partners to restart the natural processes of wetland establishment and ecological maintenance.
We can build levees, dikes, embankments, flood banks or stopbanks. Our equipment can maintain the hard-to-reach areas around Louisiana’s pipelines and help protect Louisiana’s tidal wetlands and freshwater wetlands found on river and lake floodplains.
Once you know the scope of your pipeline reclamation, wetlands restoration or creation project, contact us so we can work with you on a timeline to get it done.