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Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
(/ˈpɒntʃətreɪn/ PAHN-chə-trayn;[1] French: Lac Pontchartrain, French: [lak pɔ̃ʃaʁtʁɛ̃] ( listen)) is a brackish estuary located in southeastern Louisiana
Louisiana
in the United States. It covers an area of 630 square miles (1,600 km2) with an average depth of 12 to 14 feet (3.7 to 4.3 m). Some shipping channels are kept deeper through dredging. It is roughly oval in shape, about 40 miles (64 km) from west to east and 24 miles (39 km) from south to north. In descending order of area, the lake is located in parts of six Louisiana
Louisiana
parishes: St. Tammany, Orleans, Jefferson, St. John the Baptist, St. Charles, and Tangipahoa. The water boundaries were defined in 1979 (see list of parishes in Louisiana). The lake is crossed by the Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Causeway, the longest straight bridge over water in the world.

Contents

1 Namesake 2 Description 3 History 4 Conservation and restoration 5 Northshore 6 New Orleans 7 Hurricanes

7.1 Funding 7.2 Hurricane
Hurricane
Katrina

8 Notable deaths 9 See also 10 References 11 Further reading 12 External links

Namesake[edit] Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
is named for Louis Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain. He was the French Minister of the Marine, Chancellor, and Controller-General of Finances during the reign of France's "Sun King", Louis XIV, for whom the colony of La Louisiane was named.[2] Description[edit] Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
is an estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
via the Rigolets
Rigolets
strait (known locally as "the Rigolets") and Chef Menteur Pass into Lake Borgne, another large lagoon, and therefore experiences small tidal changes. It receives fresh water from the Tangipahoa, Tchefuncte, Tickfaw, Amite, and Bogue Falaya
Bogue Falaya
rivers, and from Bayou Lacombe and Bayou Chinchuba. It is one of the largest wetlands along the Gulf Coast
Gulf Coast
of North America.[3] It comprises more than 125,000 ac of wetland, including bottomland hardwoods and cypress swamps (although these have been severely degraded by past logging) along with a complex mixture of herbaceous wetlands including fresh, intermediate and brackish marsh.[4] Salinity
Salinity
varies from negligible at the northern cusp west of Mandeville up to nearly half the salinity of seawater at its eastern bulge near Interstate 10. Lake Maurepas, a true freshwater lake, connects with Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
on the west via Pass Manchac. The Industrial Canal
Industrial Canal
connects the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
with the lake at New Orleans. Bonnet Carré Spillway
Bonnet Carré Spillway
diverts water from the Mississippi into the lake during times of river flooding. History[edit] The lake was created 2,600 to 4,000 years ago as the evolving Mississippi River
Mississippi River
Delta formed its southern and eastern shorelines with alluvial deposits.[5] Its Native American name was Okwata ("Wide Water"). In 1699, French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville
Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville
renamed it Pontchartrain after Louis Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain. Human habitation of the region began at least 3,500 years ago, but increased rapidly with the arrival of Europeans about 300 years ago. The great American naturalist, William Bartram, explored the north shore during a trip west in 1777.[6] In 1852 a railroad was constructed to link New Orleans
New Orleans
to the north. Engines turned at Pass Manchac. However, the pilings were burned to the water line in the Civil War.[7] The great cypress swamps of the area were heavily logged in the early 20th century; many have not regrown.[8][9][self-published source] Conservation and restoration[edit] Owing to past exploitation, the ecosystems of the lake have been placed under stress. Marshes, for example, are turning to open water, and cypress swamps are being killed by salt water intrusion. However, Brown Pelicans and Bald Eagles, once scarce, are now a common sight along the shores. A team of experts assembled by The Nature Conservancy assessed the situation in 2004.[10] They identified seven target habitat types that were in particular need of conservation management: bottomland hardwood forest, cypress swamp, relict ridge woodland, fresh/intermediate marsh, brackish/salt marsh, lake open water, and littoral submersed aquatic vegetation. The bottomland hardwood forest and cypress swamp are suffering from lack of fresh water input and sediment deposition owing to the levees upstream from the lake. In addition, bottomland hardwoods are being invaded by exotic species such as Chinese tallow
Chinese tallow
while freshwater marshes are being invaded by exotic species such as elephant's-ear.[3] The team also identified four key animal species that could indicate the degree to which the system declines or improves. These were rangia clam (representing lake bottom habitat), gulf sturgeon and paddlefish (representing fish communities) and the alligator snapping turtle (one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world, but in decline owing to over- harvesting). The future of the lake depends, in part, on restoring annual spring floods to the wetlands of the lake basin, and controlling urban sprawl on the North shore. Selected species, like the paddlefish and alligator snapping turtle, would benefit from reduced harvesting. The lake could change considerably without such conservation planning. A few examples of future change might include more cypress swamps converting to anthropogenic marsh or open water, Chinese tallow
Chinese tallow
displacing native forests, and, with a warming climate, mangrove trees replacing brackish marsh.[11] Hence, the ecosystems of the lake now, and in the future, depend very much upon some basic decisions about human activities in the vicinity of the lake, and, even more so, human activity upstream along the Mississippi River. The current population in the region is over 1.5 million. There have been many problems with conservation management of the forests and wetlands.[12][13] The United States Geological Survey
United States Geological Survey
is currently monitoring the environmental effects of shoreline erosion, loss of wetlands, pollution from urban areas and agriculture, saltwater intrusion from artificial waterways, dredging, basin subsidence and faulting, storms and sea-level rise, and freshwater diversion from the Mississippi and other rivers.[14] With proper management of this lake and its wetlands, there is great potential to enhance the productivity of wetlands, and to maintain biological diversity to support an ecotourism industry that will diversify the economy.[9] Northshore[edit]

At the southern terminus of LA 1077
LA 1077
in Madisonville, this lighthouse is on the west estuary of the Tchefuncte River
Tchefuncte River
at Lake Pontchartrain and was constructed in 1837.

North of Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
is the North Shore, Northshore, or Northlake region. It includes the cities of Mandeville, Covington, Abita Springs, Madisonville, Lacombe, and Slidell in St. Tammany Parish; Ponchatoula, Hammond, and Amite in Tangipahoa Parish; and Franklinton and Bogalusa in Washington Parish. These three Northshore parishes are the eastern Florida Parishes. The landscape here is mostly uplands that were once dominated by long leaf pine savannas and interrupted by occasional large rivers. The savannas were maintained by regular fires caused by lightning; they produced the distinctive fauna and flora of this region.[9] Lake Pontchartrain's south shore areas (dominated by New Orleans), instead of being designated by that name, are more likely to be referred to as either "East bank" or "West bank," depending upon their position with respect to the general north-south course of the Mississippi River. Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
forms the northern boundary of the city of New Orleans, which is coterminous with Orleans Parish, and the northern boundary of its two largest suburbs Metairie
Metairie
and Kenner; as well as forming the northern boundaries of Jefferson Parish and Saint Charles Parish and much of the northern and eastern boundaries of Saint John the Baptist Parish. New Orleans[edit] New Orleans
New Orleans
was established at a Native American portage between the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
and Lake Pontchartrain. The lake provides numerous recreational activities for people in New Orleans
New Orleans
and is also home to the Southern Yacht Club. In the 1920s, the Industrial Canal
Industrial Canal
in the eastern part of the city opened, providing a direct navigable water connection, with locks, between the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
and the lake. In the same decade, a project dredging new land from the lake shore behind a new concrete floodwall began; this would result in an expansion of the city into the former swamp between Metairie/Gentilly Ridges and the lakefront. The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway
Lake Pontchartrain Causeway
was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, connecting New Orleans
New Orleans
(by way of Metairie) with Mandeville, and bisecting the lake in a north-northeast line. Hurricanes[edit]

Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
at New Orleans
New Orleans
during Hurricane Georges
Hurricane Georges
in 1998; lakefront fishing camps outside of the protection levee suffered severe damage.

During hurricanes, a storm surge can build up in Lake Pontchartrain. Wind pushes water into the lake from the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
as a hurricane approaches from the south, and from there it can spill into New Orleans. A hurricane in 1947 flooded much of Metairie, much of which is slightly below sea level due to land subsidence after marshland was drained. After the storm, hurricane-protection levees were built along Lake Pontchartrain's south shore to protect New Orleans
New Orleans
and nearby communities. A storm surge of 10 feet (3.0 m) from Hurricane Betsy overwhelmed some levees in eastern New Orleans
New Orleans
in 1965, while storm surge funneled in by the Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet Canal and a levee failure flooded most of the Lower 9th Ward. After this the levees encircling the city and outlying parishes were raised to heights of 14 to 23 feet (4.3 to 7.0 m). Due to cost concerns, the levees were built to protect against only a Category 3 hurricane; however, some of the levees initially withstood the Category 5 storm surge of Hurricane
Hurricane
Katrina (August 2005), which only slowed to Category 3 winds within hours of landfall (due to a last-minute eyewall replacement cycle). Experts using computer modeling at Louisiana
Louisiana
State University after Hurricane
Hurricane
Katrina have concluded that the levees were never topped but rather faulty design, inadequate construction, or some combination of the two were responsible for the flooding of most of New Orleans: some canal walls leaked underneath, because the wall foundations were not deep enough in peat-subsoil to withstand the pressure of higher water.[15] Funding[edit] Congress failed to fully fund an upgrade requested during the 1990s by the Army Corps of Engineers, and funding was cut in 2003-04 despite a 2001 study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency
warning that a hurricane in New Orleans
New Orleans
was one of the country’s three most likely disasters.[16] Raising and reinforcing the levees to resist a Category 5 hurricane might take 25 years to complete.[17] Some estimates place the cost at $25 billion. Hurricane
Hurricane
Katrina[edit]

Windspeed of Hurricane
Hurricane
Katrina 7 a.m., showing hurricane-force winds (yellow/brown/red: 75-92 mph) hitting the northeast/south shores of Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
(1 hour after landfall) on August 29, 2005.

Windspeed of Hurricane
Hurricane
Katrina 10 a.m., showing hurricane-force winds (yellow/brown) still hitting the north/southeast shores of Lake Pontchartrain (4 hours after landfall)

When Hurricane
Hurricane
Katrina reached Category 5 in 2005, some experts predicted that the levee system might fail completely if the storm passed close to the city. Although Katrina weakened to a Category 3 before making landfall on August 29 (with only Category 1-2 strength winds in New Orleans
New Orleans
on the weaker side of the eye of the hurricane), the outlying New Orleans
New Orleans
East area along south Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
was in the eyewall with winds, preceding the eye, nearly as strong as those experienced in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Canals near Chalmette began leaking at 8 am,[citation needed] and some levees/canals, designed to withstand Category 3 storms, suffered multiple breaks the following day (see Effects of Hurricane
Hurricane
Katrina in New Orleans), flooding 80% of the city. The walls of the Industrial Canal
Industrial Canal
were breached by storm surge via the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
Gulf Outlet, while the 17th Street Canal
17th Street Canal
and London Avenue Canal experienced catastrophic breaches, even though water levels never topped their flood walls. Louisiana
Louisiana
State University experts presented evidence that some of these structures might have had design flaws or faulty construction.[18] There are indications that the soft earth and peat underlying canal walls may have given way. In the weeks before Katrina, tests of salinity in seepage pools near canals showed them to be lake water, not fresh water from broken mains. The 5.5-mile-long (8.9 km) I-10 Twin Span Bridge
I-10 Twin Span Bridge
heading northeast between New Orleans
New Orleans
and Slidell was destroyed. The shorter Fort Pike
Fort Pike
Bridge crossing the outlet to Lake Borgne
Lake Borgne
remained intact. Much of the northern sector of the suburban areas of Metairie
Metairie
and Kenner was flooded with up to 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 0.9 m) of water. In this area, flooding was not the result of levee overtopping, but was due to a decision by the governmental administration of Jefferson Parish to abandon the levee-aligned drainage pumping stations.[19] This resulted in the reverse flow of lake water through the pumping stations into drainage canals which subsequently overflowed, causing extensive flooding of the area between I-10 and the lakefront. When the pump operators were returned to their stations, water was drained out of Metairie
Metairie
and Kenner in less than a day.[citation needed] On September 5, 2005, the Army Corps of Engineers started to fix levee breaches by dropping huge sandbags from Chinook helicopters. The London Avenue Canal
London Avenue Canal
and Industrial Canal
Industrial Canal
were blocked at the lake as permanent repairs started. On September 6, the Corps began pumping flood water back into the lake after seven days in the streets of New Orleans. Because it was fouled with dead animals, sewage, heavy metals, petrochemicals, and other dangerous substances, the Army Corps worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) to avoid major contamination and eutrophication of the lake.[20] Aerial photography suggests that 25 billion US gallons (95,000,000 m3) of water covered New Orleans
New Orleans
as of September 2, which equals about 2% of Lake Pontchartrain's volume.[citation needed] Due to a lack of electric power, the city was unable to treat the water before pumping it into the lake. It is unclear how long the pollution will persist and what its environmental damage to the lake will be, or what the long-term health effects will be in the city from mold and other contamination. On September 24, 2005, Hurricane
Hurricane
Rita did not breach the temporary repairs in the main part of the city, but the repair on the Industrial Canal wall in the Lower 9th Ward
Lower 9th Ward
was breached, allowing about 2 feet (0.6 m) of water back into that neighborhood. Notable deaths[edit]

Eastern Air Lines Flight 304
Eastern Air Lines Flight 304
crashed into the lake on February 25, 1964, resulting in the deaths of 51 passengers and 7 crew. Very little of the plane or passengers was ever recovered. On June 16, 1964, a Trailways bus plunged off the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway into Lake Pontchartrain, killing 6. On December 31, 1967, a chartered plane crashed into Lake Pontchartrain, killing 5 servicemen and the pilot. On September 15, 1978, six-year-old Benjamin Daly, along with the pilot, died when a private plane his parents had chartered crashed into the lake. His parents survived. On February 23, 1980, a twin engine plane crashed into Lake Pontchartrain, killing 7. In 1986, a decomposing woman's body was found by two fishermen. The cause of death was homicide by asphyxia. She was not identified and no leads were ever identified in the case.[21] New England Patriots
New England Patriots
defensive end, New Orleans
New Orleans
native and former LSU star Marquise Hill
Marquise Hill
was found dead in Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
on May 28, 2007.[22] A U.S. Navy T-34 training plane crashed into the lake on January 23, 2010, after a routine training mission. The instructor, Lt. Clinton Wermers, was found at 0100 on January 27, 2010. The student pilot was rescued about two hours after the crash.[23][24]

See also[edit]

Louisiana
Louisiana
portal

Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Causeway Bonnet Carré Spillway Tammany Trace
Tammany Trace
Rail Trail Louisiana's 1st congressional district List of lakes of the United States

References[edit]

^ "Oil from Gulf spill seeps into New Orleans' Lake Pontchartrain". The Associated Press. July 6, 2010. Pontchartrain (pronounced PAHN-chuh-trayn)  [Respelled "ponch-a-train" in other sources] ^ Louisiana
Louisiana
Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. "Lake Pontchartrain Historical Marker".  ^ a b Keddy, P.A., D. Campbell, T. McFalls, G. Shaffer, R. Moreau, C. Dranguet, and R. Heleniak. 2007. The wetlands of lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas: past, present and future. Environmental Reviews 15: 1- 35. ^ Keddy, P.A., D. Campbell, T. McFalls, G. Shaffer, R. Moreau, C. Dranguet, and R. Heleniak. 2007. The wetlands of lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas: past, present and future. Environmental Reviews 15: 1- 35. Table 2. ^ "Environmental Atlas of the Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Basin". USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program. May 14, 2002. Retrieved 2006-06-15.  ^ Keddy, P.A., D. Campbell, T. McFalls, G. Shaffer, R. Moreau, C. Dranguet, and R. Heleniak. 2007. The wetlands of lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas: past, present and future. Environmental Reviews 15: 1-35. ^ Perrin, J.M. 2000. Home Town Ponchatoula. A Community History of Ponchatoula, Louisiana. Self-published. Ponchatoula, Louisiana. ^ Norgress, R. E. (1947). The history of the cypress lumber industry in Louisiana. Louisiana
Louisiana
Historical Quarterly 30: 979–1059. ^ a b c Keddy, P.A. 2008. Water, Earth, Fire: Louisiana’s Natural Heritage. Xlibris, Philadelphia. 229 p. ^ Maygarden, D. and others. 2004. Conservation Area Plan for the Lake Pontchartrain Estuary. The Nature Conservancy, LA. ^ Keddy, P.A., D. Campbell, T. McFalls, G. Shaffer, R. Moreau, C. Dranguet, and R. Heleniak. 2007. The Wetlands
Wetlands
of Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas: past, present and future. Environmental Reviews 15: 1- 35. Fig. 21 ^ Houck, O. 2006. Can we save New Orleans? Tulane Environmental Law Journal 19: 1–68. ^ Keddy, P.A. 2010. Wetland
Wetland
Ecology: Principles and Conservation (2nd edition). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 497 p. ^ With "The Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Basin: Louisiana's Troubled Urban Estuary". U.S. Geological Survey. November 3, 1995. Archived from the original on June 3, 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-15.  ^ Grunwall, Michael; Glasser, Susan B. (September 21, 2005). "Experts Say Faulty Levees Caused Much of Flooding". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2006-06-15.  ^ Blumenthal, Sidney (August 31, 2005). "No one can say they didn't see it coming". Salon.com. Retrieved 2006-06-15.  ^ Handwerk, Brian (September 2, 2005). " New Orleans
New Orleans
Levees Not Built for Worst Case Events". National Geographic News.  ^ Grunwald, Michael; Glasser, Susan B. (September 21, 2005). "Experts Say Faulty Levees Caused Much of Flooding". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2006-06-15.  ^ Broussard says he didn't send pump operators away - Kenner Bulletin - NOLA.com. ^ USACE (September 2005). "Quick, coordinated efforts reduce environmental impact on Lake Pontchartrain". usace.army.mil. Archived from the original on May 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-03. (Dead link) ^ "Body Discovered--Two Decade Mystery Begins". Sex-offenders.info. Retrieved 27 January 2010.  ^ Simpson, April; Levenson, Michael (May 29, 2007). "Patriot Hill is found dead". boston.com. Retrieved 27 January 2010.  ^ "Navy pilot presumed dead after crash in Lake Pontchartrain". cnn.com. January 25, 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2010.  ^ Navy pilot's body found in Lake Pontchartrain, The Times-Picayune, January 27, 2010

Further reading[edit]

Lake Pontchartrain, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7385-4392-5

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lake Pontchartrain.

Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Visitors Guide Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Basin Foundation United States Geological Survey
United States Geological Survey
Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Fact Sheet Real-time water data for Lake Pontchartrain New Orleans
New Orleans
history of the lake Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Basin Maritime Museum USGS Environmental Atlas of Lake Pontchartrain New Orleans
New Orleans
District Water Management Washington Post article alleging levee faults, 21 September 2005 National Geographic article about the levees, 2 September 2005 Salon article about disaster predictions, 31 August 2005 U.S. Geological Survey article about the Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Basin, 3 November 1995 BBC article about environmental effects on the lake after the flooding of New Orleans

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