Just off the shoreline of Bucktown Harbor, a pipeline spews dark, sludgy mud to create small plots of earth along a one-mile stretch of Lake Pontchartrain’s coast.

A distant plume of smoke on the opposite side of the causeway marks the sediment’s origin, where a dredge scoops the lake’s bottom and sends it down a 3-mile pipeline to Jefferson Parish’s coast.

While unappealing and odorous in its current state, the project seeks to provide the suburban neighborhood with a type of project rarely seen outside of sparsely-populated coastal areas: To create 20 acres of new marshland in hopes of curbing erosion, protecting the levee and fostering an ecosystem of native wildlife.

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Sediment pumping from the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain to the Bucktown Living Shoreline takes place in Metairie, La., Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (Staff photo by Matthew Perschall, The Times-Picayune)

The $15.5 million project, called the Bucktown “living shoreline,” is currently in its second phase, in which nearby sediment is extracted to build “earthen dikes,” which over time will grow into marshland. Officials already completed phase one, which constructed nine 500-foot breakwaters off the shoreline to reduce wave action in the marshland.

Once the marsh’s foundation is laid?— which is expected to be complete by the end of the month — construction will pause for six to 18 months to allow the sediment to settle and consolidate, according to Mindy Joiner, a coastal scientist for engineering firm Moffit & Nichol.

The final phase of the project will involve clearing out the outer edge of marshland to create a 20-foot-wide “blueway” for kayakers to ride through the wetland.

It’s the first of its kind to be used to protect a federal levee system, according to project principal Jonathan Hird.

The new marshland will create new habitats for local wildlife like waterfowl, fish and crabs — as well as aquatic flora — which in turn could encourage more fishing in the area, project officials said.

The shoreline can also serve as a field trip destination for local schools.

“You can use it as an outdoor classroom,” Joiner said. “It’s to help protect the area and our habitat. That’s what we mean when we say it’s in people’s backyards.”

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An excavator operates in the water as construction occurs at the Bucktown Living Shoreline in Metairie, La., Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (Staff photo by Matthew Perschall, The Times-Picayune)

The project received millions of dollars in funding from a number of grants and agencies, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the state’s construction budget and parish proceeds from oil and gas revenues in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hird said for every dollar the parish has put into the project, four to five dollars have come from other pots of money.

“It’s a wonderful demonstration of what we can do with other areas of the lake as well, and I’m very proud of our parish for putting it together,"?said Mark Schexnayder, a former Department of Wildlife and Fisheries official.

The parish also opened a "bird's nest" pavilion at the Bucktown Harbor last year, as well as a kayak launch.

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Richard W. Spinrad, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration takes a tour of the Bucktown's 'living shoreline' progress in Metairie, La., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (Photo by Sophia Germer, The Times-Picayune)

Email Lara Nicholson at lnicholson@theadvocate.com or follow her on Twitter @LaraNicholson_.