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- The Northshore of the lake lost a staggering 3.6 square miles of wetland habitat to the storm.
- Overall, Lake Pontchartrain's coastline lost an estimated 75.3 square miles due to the storm.
- Lake Pontchartrain was able to heal itself with such astounding speed through the simple process of dilution.
MANDEVILLE - In a matter of 30 hours, Hurricane Katrina dealt an unprecedented blow to the Lake Pontchartrain basin. "Never before in the history of America has this happened," said Carlton Dufrechou, director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.
The Northshore of the lake lost a staggering 3.6 square miles of wetland habitat to the storm. According to Dufrechou, the regular yearly rate of loss is substantially less. "We're usually dealing with losing several feet of wetlands a year on the Northshore to natural causes, maybe a square yard," Dufrochou said, "Nothing like this."
Overall, Lake Pontchartrain's coastline lost an estimated 75.3 square miles due to the storm. That's about 130 percent more than what was lost from 1990 to 2001, according to the findings of the U.S. Geologic Survey posted on the foundation's Web site.
Immediately after the storm, Dufrechou said the lake's waters reached unprecedented levels of pollution, but by mid-October the coastal water was back to pre-Katrina levels. "We had fishable/swimmable water again about five weeks after the storm," he said.
Lake Pontchartrain was able to heal itself with such astounding speed through the simple process of dilution.
"We're not advocating fighting pollution with dilution by any means," Dufrechou said, "But in reality, the lake covers about 630 square miles, so any localized contaminates were able to quickly spread out and break down."
The pollutants only represented about 10 percent of the lake's overall volume, so while the short-term localized effects were very significant, they didn't last long enough to affect the lake's overall pollution levels.
Dufrechou said the coastlines are the area's first line of defense.
"Without them, we will continue to see higher and higher storm surges on a more and more frequent basis," he said.
While the levee system is designed to be an effective breakwater system, Dufrechou said levees alone won't keep us safe. He said he supports the integration of our levee systems with our natural wetlands. The two working together will be a much more effective means of protecting ourselves from hurricanes and floods.
"The levees can be much better, but we can't do things the old way," Dufrechou said. "Everything needs to be integrated. The levees and the wetlands need to work together to protect us."