Tchefuncte Lighthouse Wetland Terraces Project

The Tchefuncte River rises in northeastern Tangipahoa Parish and it passes the city of Covington and the town of Madisonville. It collects its largest tributary, the Bogue Falaya, at Covington and flows into Lake Pontchartrain about 2 miles south of Madisonville.  At that point, stands the last functional lighthouse on the lake.

Originally founded and built in 1837, the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse is a symbol of the dynamic maritime history and culture of Louisiana. Storm-tossed waters were a constant threat to the exposed station and in the 182 years since, many types of protections have been built and almost all of them have been subsequently swept away by storms.

AWF’s Tchefuncte River Lighthouse Wetland Terrace Project will help protect the lighthouse and the shoreline by building 2,500 linear feet of terraces. The project will create five curved terraces (each approximately 500 feet in length) that will be planted with 20,000 marsh grass plugs. The project includes three years of monitoring with annual drone flights to record the progress of the project.

A vegetated terrace is an effective way to stabilize shorelines and create and protect marshes in a fraction of the time and cost. It enhances the natural beauty of the landscape, providing pleasing variety and contrast to the eye, and attracts small animals to resources, nesting sites and the protective cover it affords. In marshes, vegetation absorbs some of the water’s energy, slowing down potentially erosive currents, allowing a wetland to perform valuable ecosystem services.

Marsh Terraces provide natural shoreline protection. They provide a terraced marsh edge, non-terraced marsh edge, open water within terraced ponds and open water within non-terraced ponds. They provide calmer water on the downside of the terrace, improve the water quality and allow for the establishment of submerged aquatic vegetation.

Marsh Terraces also:

  • Provide nesting, breeding and migratory habitat;
  • Create micro-habitats that support commercial fisheries species;
  • Create aesthetically pleasing habitat and an area for nature-based tourism;
  • Reduce erosion, increase in sedimentation and potentially result in land accretion; and
  • Increase in nutrient uptake.

To engage and educate volunteers about the importance of ecological restoration and the direct and indirect benefits to the long-term survivability of local Louisiana communities, the project plan includes a volunteer planting of the terraces. The last volunteer planting AWF hosted was so successful, volunteer registration had to be capped at 150 people who planted more than 2,000 cypress trees and left their emotional handprint on the marsh and swamp.

For this project, AWF will develop and implement a comprehensive media outreach plan and will release a final project report. AWF will also revisit the project one year and two years post completion to highlight the project’s resilience and to chronicle the progress of ecosystem restoration.

The likelihood is high that the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse Protection Project will achieve its goal. Marsh Terracing is a proven part of shoreline protection. The terraces reduce erosion, increase sedimentation and aid in land accretion while providing a nesting and breeding habitat for migratory waterfowl.

Project TitleTchefuncte Lighthouse Wetland Terraces Project
OrganizationAmerica's WETLAND
Year Started TBD
Year EndedTBD
Duration of Project9 months