By Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund
This is part one of the series “Building Land in Coastal Louisiana: Expert Recommendations for Operating a Successful Sediment Diversion that Balances Ecosystem and Community Needs.” This series will explore key recommendations for operating sediment diversions as outlined by the independent Sediment Diversion Operations Expert Working Group.
The use of sediment diversions, a restoration tool that mimics the natural processes of the Mississippi River to build and sustain land, has been proposed for decades in coastal Louisiana. While we move closer to construction of a sediment diversion, the issues surrounding how the reintroduction of fresh water and sediment will impact the ecosystem, including important fish and wildlife species, and the communities that live, work and play in the basin, require close monitoring and planning.
The state of Louisiana, through the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), will be required to develop an Operation and Adaptive Management Plan that lays out strategies that need to be considered when operating a sediment diversion to maximize land building, while balancing the needs of the ecosystem and communities.
To help CPRA with developing these strategies, the Sediment Diversion Operations Expert Working Group was formed. The working group consisted of 12 interdisciplinary scientists with a wide range of on-the-ground expertise in coastal Louisiana. Together, they released a report with the goal of providing specific recommendations to begin a robust discussion on operation strategies to be considered for CPRA’s plan.
The working group members, along with over 40 guest experts, discussed, debated and documented complex issues such as wetland health, basin geology, fish and wildlife species and socio-economics. The resulting recommendations are included in the report, Building Land in Coastal Louisiana: Expert Recommendations for Operating a Successful Sediment Diversion that Balances Ecosystem and Community Needs.
Five of the topics key to the successful operation of a sediment diversion – sediment, hydrodynamics, vegetation, socio-economics, and fish and wildlife – will be explored further in this blog series written by experts in their respective subject. This series is intended to further detail these important topics that will become extremely relevant once a diversion is constructed.
Stay tuned for the next post in the “Building Land in Coastal Louisiana” series about key recommendations concerning hydrodynamics, titled “Exploring the Hydrodynamics of a Sediment Diversion at Mid-Barataria.”
For more information about the Sediment Diversion Operations Expert Working Group’s key recommendations, visit http://www.mississippiriverdelta.org/diversion-ops-report/.
Natalie Peyronnin is the director of science policy for EDF's Mississippi River Delta Restoration program and the convener of the Sediment Diversion Operations Expert Working Group. She works to ensure sound science is being utilized to plan, design, implement and adaptively manage projects and policies, with a focus on system dynamics. Natalie was a Senior Scientist for Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, where she served as the technical lead and science communicator for the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. Natalie also worked as Science Director for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. Natalie has a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Management, with minors in Forestry and Zoology & Physiology from Louisiana State University, as well as an M.S. in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences from Louisiana State University.
The State of Louisiana is advancing two sediment diversions south of New Orleans. These projects are on track to begin construction by 2020 using funding from the BP oil spill. Multiple projects working together are needed to build and sustain land, but sediment diversions are a crucial foundation needed to confront Louisiana's ongoing land loss crisis.
Learn more about sediment diversions in the fact sheet below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jacques Hebert, email@example.com, 504-264-6849
Independent Scientists Release Recommendations for Building Land in Coastal Louisiana
Sediment Diversions Present Opportunity to Rebuild Louisiana’s Coast, Protect against Rising Seas
(New Orleans – July 21, 2016) Today, the Sediment Diversion Operations Expert Working Group – a team of leading scientists and community experts with decades of experience working in coastal Louisiana – released key recommendations for operating Mississippi River sediment diversions to most effectively build and maintain land while considering the needs of communities, wildlife and fisheries.
Sediment diversions are engineering structures consisting of gates and channels that will be built into Mississippi River levees to allow fresh river water, sediment and other nutrients to flow into wetlands to help build and sustain land. These manmade diversions will mimic the natural processes that originally built the land of coastal Louisiana. Lessons learned in Louisiana about how to use nature to rebuild land and protect coastal communities can be applied to other regions facing similar risks of coastal erosion, rising seas and increased storms.
The state of Louisiana is advancing two diversion projects south of New Orleans toward construction in 2020. Both the Mid Barataria and Mid Breton sediment diversions are included in the state’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan, which was unanimously approved by the Louisiana Legislature. The Sediment Diversion Operations Expert Working Group, noting that how a sediment diversion is operated will be critical to its overall success, released their independent recommendations with the goal of informing the state as it starts to develop operations plans for these sediment diversions.
The team of 12 experts serving on the Sediment Diversion Operations Expert Working Group issued its recommendations after eight months of analysis and discussion, which included collaboration with more than 40 additional specialists on issues ranging from wetland health to socio-economic effects. In their report, the group recommends operating diversions to take full advantage of winter flood peaks and to target the rising flow of the spring flood peaks, establishing robust monitoring programs as well as flexibility to modify operations rapidly as conditions change, and maintaining transparent and open communications with communities and industries that could be affected by diversions.
“These carefully researched recommendations provide an opportunity to maximize the tremendous land-building potential of sediment diversions, while seeking to protect Louisiana’s abundant natural resources,” said Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy with Environmental Defense Fund, who acted as facilitator for the working group.
Key recommendations include:
- Sediment diversions should be operated on a pulse that mimics the natural flood cycle of the Mississippi River, which includes taking full advantage of winter flood peaks from November through February when the greatest concentration of sediment is available in the river to sustain the coastal wetlands, as well as operating in the spring when sand needed for building land is at its highest.
- Operations plans should include robust monitoring and flexibility for adjustments based on rapidly changing conditions, such as hurricanes and other events.
- Diversions should be opened gradually over a 5-10 year period to help develop distributary channel networks, reduce flooding risks, and allow plants, fish, and wildlife species to adjust to new conditions.
- Local communities, industries and others that will be affected by diversions must be consulted and kept informed throughout all phases of diversion development and operations. Genuine attempts to mitigate socio-economic effects without compromising the effectiveness of the diversion are critical.
- A clear governance structure should be established to determine roles and responsibilities of all parties and to establish a transparent decision-making process for diversion operations.
Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost nearly 1,900 square miles of land, or a football field of land every hour, primarily due to leveeing of the river for flood control and navigation. In the midst of this ongoing land loss crisis, sediment diversions are vital restoration tools needed to build and sustain coastal wetlands. These wetlands are crucial for protecting communities and industries from the effects of storms and rising seas as well as providing habitat for birds and wildlife.
For more information: Visit MississippiRiverDelta.org/DiversionOpsReport
The Sediment Diversion Operations Expert Working Group is a body of independent scientists and experts formed by Environmental Defense Fund, in coordination with Restore the Mississippi River Delta coalition partners, which include non-government groups with long histories of working on the Louisiana coast. The group developed and shared operational recommendations with Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, other state and federal agencies, the larger scientific community, and communities and businesses with a stake in the operation of diversions.
Originally posted by Audubon Louisiana on July 11, 2016. See original post here.
Greetings! My name is Harmony Hamilton; I am Audubon Louisiana’s inaugural Walker Communications Fellow. In this role, I will be working with Audubon Louisiana staff and supporters to capture the impact the National Audubon Society and its partners are having on birds and people across Louisiana’s coast.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion, just a few miles south of New Orleans, to see firsthand an area in coastal Louisiana that is actually gaining land and learn what implications this might have for a state losing land at an extremely rapid rate. Check out the video to see what is happening down there in the marsh.
By Matt Phillips, Outreach Coordinator, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition
In 2014, Kassy McCall opened NOLA Til Ya Die in a Mid-City warehouse where Toulouse Street meets Bayou St. John. “I had been down in the French Market selling ‘Til Ya Die’ merchandise since 2012,” she explains, “mostly as test marketing.” McCall’s “Til Ya Die” designs are recognizable to many New Orleanians, but have a deeper connection to the city’s Hurricane Katrina recovery than most realize. After Katrina, “everyone kept asking me why I kept going back to New Orleans. They said ‘there’s nothing there, no one will be able to work down there, the city is done.’” She wanted to create something that would celebrate the city and counter those negative messages that dominated conversations with friends and the nightly news in the years after the storm.
She was looking for something proud, edgy and decidedly New Orleans – something that honored the spirit of the people who continued to live in the city, when everyone else had counted them out.
The unifying theme of McCall’s designs is a skull with a crooked-jawed smile and hurricane eyes. On most of her products, the words “NOLA Til Ya Die” sit below the skull in a rustic, unrefined font. The logo is meant to be disarming, but the message is defiant: life in New Orleans is proud, scrappy and persistent.
As a resident and business owner, McCall recognizes that the environmental problems Katrina brought to light are increasingly pressing issues. “Sometimes it’s just easier to ignore it,” she says of the state’s land loss crisis. Without healthy wetlands and a working coast, New Orleans is environmentally and economically vulnerable. While interest in coastal restoration rose after the storm, the issue isn’t a daily topic of conversation for many locals. Coastal land loss isn’t visible for the average New Orleans resident, McCall observes, but “what’s happening fifty, a hundred miles away has a huge impact on what’s happening here. And it’s happening fast.” She feels the need to get involved in coastal restoration because a dissolved coastline leaves her vulnerable as a business owner and as a resident of the Crescent City.
On May 12th, 2016, Restore the Mississippi River Delta and NOLA Til Ya Die hosted a crawfish boil to raise awareness to coastal land loss and the impending update to the State’s Coastal Master Plan. The event focused on New Orleans, and local Mid-City businesses pitched in to help the cause. Second Line Brewing provided beer, Evangeline Lounges donated a case of wine, and McCall donated space in her store. Attendees ate Crawfish Meister’s crawfish while Thinkin’ With Lincoln, a local trivia host, quizzed them on their Louisiana coastal knowledge. For McCall, this was an important opportunity to get involved in restoration. “You can’t live in a coastal city and pretend sea level rise and coastal land loss don’t exist,” said McCall.
The fight for restoration will define the future of New Orleans and south Louisiana, and McCall has rooted her business and her life in the city. She doesn’t plan to leave any time soon.