Saving the Lake

Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation provides plenty of opportunities for companies to help protect a vital resource in our region.
cheryl gerber

Louisiana is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, wildlife and ecosystems that offer employment and recreational delight for a large percentage of the population… It’s why many call Louisiana home.”

Randy Waesche, president of wealth advisory firm Resource Management, is also a longtime board member of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBM), a cause he’s been championing almost back to the organization’s inception.

In 1989, a report to the Greater New Orleans Expressway Committee entitled “To Restore Lake Pontchartrain” highlighted the ecological damage being caused by pollution. That report became the rallying point for a citizen-led effort that resulted in the formation of the foundation.

The Pontchartrain Basin — a 10,000-square-mile watershed that includes 16 Louisiana parishes and four Mississippi counties — encompasses 22 essential habitats. The basin’s topography ranges from rolling woodlands in the north to coastal marshes in the south, with the 630-square-mile Lake Pontchartrain as its centerpiece.

The basin is known for its bayous, tranquil swamps and lush hardwood forests, which provide essential habitats for countless species of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and plants. Its underwater grass beds constitute the lake’s most productive underwater habitat and provide shelter and food for juvenile fish and shellfish.

All of this is critical to the lake’s annual multimillion-dollar fishing industry.

Since its inception, LPBF and its partners have restored many of the waterways and habitats of the Pontchartrain Basin so they are once again a resource for recreational opportunities.

“The foundation has taken on the mantle of responsibility to be the guardian and steward of our natural resources,” said Waesche. “Quietly, but effectively, the LPBF, through its talented staff and volunteers, has improved the environmental quality of the region and educated the citizens about responsible use of this important resource.”

LPBF Executive Director Kristi Trail happily counts herself among the Louisianians who grew up on Lake Pontchartrain’s levees and enjoyed boating and fishing in its waters.

“My love for the lake inspired me to be a lifelong environmentalist,” she said.

Trail believes that LPBF’s success depends largely on the dedication and talents of thousands of volunteers and many of its valuable business partners.

“We have so many huge supporters: Gulf Coast Bank and Trust, Regions Bank and Cox to name a few,” Trail said. “We are a good match for companies who want to further STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in the Greater New Orleans area, and for those who have a passion for coastal sustainability and storm protection in the state.”

Entergy Louisiana is another one of LPBF’s valuable business partners. Once a year during an event called Spring Sweep, volunteers from Entergy and LPBF work together on a variety of improvement projects. Together, they’ve restored part of the levee on Bayou St. John and Lakeshore Drive and replaced part of a dyke that had washed away. They’ve also cleaned up areas along the lakeshore and nearby communities. Last year more than 400 volunteers participated in Spring Sweep, collecting nearly 8,000 pounds of trash across 36 miles.

“Volunteerism is integral to Entergy’s mission. It’s just one of the ways we power life,” said Ann Johnson, customer service representative with Entergy Louisiana. “We believe that giving back to the communities where we live and work will enhance the vitality and quality of life in those areas that are, in large part, responsible for our success. We recognize the importance of turning good intentions into positive action. It’s not only good business, it’s also simply the right thing to do. After all, we live here too, and our customers are our neighbors.”

Trail believes that LPBF is one of the greatest examples of how a group of dedicated citizens, government officials, educators, businesses and other stakeholders can bring a vital natural resource back to life.

“I want to continue the legacy of this great work with our water quality, coastal restoration, education and outreach, and public recreational access programs,” she said. “I envision our entire community splashing around in the lake.”


THE BASICS

Mission:  To restore and preserve the Pontchartrain Basin for the benefit of this and future generations
Website: saveourlake.org
Location: New Canal Lighthouse at 8001 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans
Annual Budget: $2.5 million
Ongoing Partnerships: LPBF is a member of the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, a coalition of Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. Together, we are working to rebuild coastal Louisiana’s nationally significant landscape to protect people, wildlife and jobs. LPBF is also a member of the Louisiana Environmental Education Commission, whose mission is to create a comprehensive and balanced environmental education initiative to solve statewide environmental problems.


SUCCESS OF SERVICES

Over the years, LPBF has cooperated with parishes, communities, and partners in the public, private and nonprofit sectors to accomplish many profound achievements, including:
50,000 + swamp tree plantings where large-scale coastal restoration is occurring.
Led the cleanup and removal of Lake Pontchartrain and three basin rivers from the Impaired Waterbodies List while partnering with the community to promote and encourage the lake as a clean, recreational resource
10,000 + youth and adults educated per year at the New Canal Lighthouse and Education Center
Partnering with the Red Cross to teach thousands how to swim
17 + years of data on water quality in the basin provided by LPBF
Creating a “School of Marsh” outdoor classroom at Bayou St. John


SUCCESS STORIES

During the 2016/2017 planting season, 24,600 trees were planted on the Maurepas Landbridge, resulting in 127 acres of swamp restoration. Since 2013 — in partnership with Restore the Earth Foundation and with the help of many dedicated community volunteers — many swamp tree plantings have been completed.

Contact Dr. Theryn Henkel at theryn@saveourlake.org for dates and locations of upcoming tree plantings. Swamp and marsh plantings are also planned.

The historic New Canal Lighthouse at West End on Lakeshore Drive was severely damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. In September 2012, the reconstruction of the lighthouse was completed. The building incorporates original wood from the 1890 lighthouse that stood on the site and now operates as Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation’s New Canal Lighthouse Museum and Education Center. HMS Architects developed the plans, which are an accurate reproduction of the original lighthouse. The general contractor for the project was Certified Construction Professionals.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Fundraising Event: Lights at the Lake — Dec. 9 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the New Canal Lighthouse and Education Center. The event includes pictures with Santa, the Christmas Boat Parade, caroling and food and libations.

Volunteer Event: On Saturday, Sept. 16, LPBF will hold its 28th annual Beach Sweep presented by Toyota, a day designated to clean up around the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. Volunteers will care for the areas that drain the Pontchartrain Basin by cleaning curbs, ditches and storm drains on city streets and rural roadways. Storm drain markers will also be placed on drains in Orleans and Jefferson parishes in order to help prevent flooding and protect Lake Pontchartrain. For more information, contact the education department at (504) 836-2238 or joannh@saveourlake.org.

 


 

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