UW-Madison students restore New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward bayou

June 4, 2008 By Nicole Fritz

Almost three years after the winds and flooding of Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans, the wetlands of the bayou are still struggling to recover. This summer, a group of University of Wisconsin–Madison students are working to help restore the Bayou Bienvenue, an urban wetland in the Lower Ninth Ward, to ecological health.

The effort is part of a project that started in the fall of 2006, when students in an environmental justice class wanted to apply the lessons of their class to the devastation in New Orleans.

Since that first trip, students specializing in urban and regional planning, water resource management, and environment and resources have been traveling to the bayou up to four times per year to take water samples, survey area wildlife, study historic aerial photos, talk to residents and prepare a restoration project for the neighborhood wetland.

This summer, a group of nine students will be in New Orleans from June 8-Aug. 8 to continue researching the bayou as part of a long-term commitment to the project. The team will mainly be researching the possibility of a diversion dam that would bring fresh water and sediment into the bayou. They will also continue testing the water, surveying the vegetation and collecting information.

In addition to researching the ecology of the bayou, the team also works with the community, involving them in the project by doing everything from hosting a crab boil to surveying their concerns.

"One of the most amazing aspects of this project is the long term relationship we are building with the community in the Lower Ninth Ward," says Ashleigh Ross, a UW–Madison student on the trip. "We want to work directly with the residents. If we do the wetland restoration, we want to make sure it benefits them."

Before departing, the group is holding a final meeting at 7 p.m. today (June 4) on the Memorial Union Terrace.

For more information, contact Ross at jaross2@wisc.edu or (636) 352-7092 (cell).