MRGO Must Go Coalition Applauds $3 Billion Court Decision Moving Critical Restoration Forward

September 2, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Media Resources, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

For Immediate Release:

Contact:
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504-421-7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org
Samantha Carter, National Wildlife Federation, 504-264-6831, carterS@nwf.org

MRGO Must Go Coalition Applauds $3 Billion Court Decision Moving Critical Restoration Forward

 10 years after Katrina, critical ecosystem and storm buffer still awaits restoration

(NEW ORLEANS – September 2, 2015) In a landmark decision last week, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk of the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled in favor of the State of Louisiana, finding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) must pay the full $3 billion cost of restoring wetlands damaged by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). The MRGO Must Go Coalition – a group of 17 conservation and community organizations that successfully advocated for the shipping channel’s closure in 2009 –released the following statement:

“This ruling confirms that the Corps must pay for fixing the damage caused by the construction and mismanagement of the MRGO. Restoring the wetlands lost to the MRGO is critical to providing meaningful storm protection to the Greater New Orleans Region. We now call on Congress to fulfill its promise and fund this vitally important restoration work.  The risks to public safety are far too grave to allow further delay.

”In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, in 2007 Congress directed the Corps to close the MRGO and restore the lost wetlands.  Almost a decade later, the Corps still has not scratched the surface on MRGO restoration. We ask the Administration and Congress to work together with the Corps to pursue funding and to begin critical restoration work without further delay.

“Our Coalition hopes that the renewed national focus shed on southern Louisiana last week as part of Hurricane Katrina’s 10-year commemorative activities is a signal of commitment from the federal government to restore Louisiana’s wetlands, including those directly bordering New Orleans that were so severely damaged by the MRGO. Ten years later, the catastrophic damage caused in part by the MRGO during Hurricane Katrina is still visible in neighborhoods, such as the Lower 9th Ward and across St. Bernard Parish.

“While this ruling clearly affirms full federal coverage of construction costs for restoration of this ecosystem, the gravity of this situation requires all involved agencies, including the State of Louisiana, to do everything in their power to advance and complete MRGO restoration projects to the fullest extent possible. This includes leveraging all funding streams as they become available.

“Every day, the MRGO ecosystem further deteriorates, increasing risks to communities throughout the Greater New Orleans area. Congress will have a major role to play by providing vital funding to bring MRGO ecosystem restoration to fruition. Our member organizations will continue to hold the Administration and our Congressional leaders accountable for action on restoring Louisiana’s wetlands to better protect our communities. The communities and ecosystem torn apart by the MRGO have achieved a measure of justice with this recent ruling. We now look to leaders across government for action.”

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MRGO Must Go Coalition Members: American Rivers, Citizens Against Widening the Industrial Canal, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Global Green-USA, Gulf Restoration Network, Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Levees.org, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, Mary Queen of Vietnam CDC, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club –Delta Chapter.

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Katrina 10 – A Coastal View of Katrina Ten Years Later

August 26, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 19 Priority Projects, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, K10, Restoration Projects

This week marks a decade since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed into the Gulf Coast, killing nearly 2,000 people and devastating communities and coastal wetlands. Louisiana has come a long way in the past 10 years in restoring coastal areas that act as a natural buffer against storm surge – but there is still much work to do to achieve comprehensive restoration that can protect our communities from future storms. Below is a look at some of the damage caused by these storms – and information on moving forward to create a more resilient Louisiana coastline.

MRDRC_Infographic_K10

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Conservation Groups Commemorate Katrina Anniversary by Urging President to Prioritize Restoration

August 26, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Economy, Federal Policy, Hurricane Katrina, K10, Media Resources, Restoration Projects

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Contact:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.767.4181, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org

Conservation Groups Commemorate Katrina Anniversary by Urging President Obama to Prioritize Restoration 

Coastal Restoration Is Key to City’s Long-Term Resiliency, and Administration Has Opportunities to Advance Efforts

(NEW ORLEANS, LA—Aug. 26, 2015) As President Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush prepare to visit New Orleans to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this week, national and local conservation groups working together on Mississippi River Delta restorationEnvironmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana – issued the following joint statement:

“In the coming days, President Obama, two former U.S. Presidents and other leaders will honor the thousands of lives lost and bring well-deserved attention to the progress Louisiana and the Gulf Coast have made since the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina a decade ago.

“However, the job here is far from finished. Louisiana’s coastal wetlands – its first line of defense against future storms and a key driver for the health of the Gulf – continue to vanish at the stunning rate of one football field an hour. We look to President Obama to prioritize restoration of Louisiana’s disappearing coast for the remainder of his term and in doing so, leave a legacy of lasting resilience for the region.

“President Obama and leaders across government must maximize the impact of restoration efforts by protecting existing revenue streams for restoration, ensuring that the parties involved are working together effectively and prioritizing funding for large-scale ecosystem projects that will most significantly benefit the region. The pending BP settlement provides a tremendous immediate opportunity to do that, with billions of dollars that can  be dedicated now to the most critical ecosystem projects Gulf-wide, including substantial investments in the Mississippi River Delta.

“This is not just a Louisiana crisis, it’s a regional and national issue: Louisiana’s coast and its communities are powerful economic engines for shipping, energy, seafood and other industries that feed and fuel the nation and support millions of jobs across America.

“Katrina was the wake-up call. We certainly hope the Gulf Coast never has a repeat of that level of devastation. But unless meaningful coastal restoration moves forward and is funded for the long-term, we leave the people, wildlife and industries across the Louisiana coast at immense risk.  And because of the flow of funds resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the President and his Administration have the opportunity to act now, to turn these twin disasters into a positive, lasting and meaningful legacy in the Gulf. “

 

Background:

  • On July 2, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice and BP announced an agreement in principle on a global settlement that will resolve all remaining federal and state litigation relating to BP’s role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon offshore oil disaster. BP will pay a total of $18.732 billion to settle these claims with $7.332 billion designated for Natural Resource Damages (in addition to the $1 billion BP already paid for early restoration efforts), $5.5 billion in Clean Water Act penalties and $5.9 billion will cover economic damages to states and localities on the Gulf Coast. For more information on the agreement in principle, click here.
  • If the agreement in principle with BP becomes final, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, an independent federal entity established by the RESTORE Act, will have more than $1 billion dollars to dedicate to critical ecosystem restoration projects across the Gulf in the near-term.
  • Additionally, the Louisiana Coastal Area Program (LCA) represents another opportunity to construct large-scale ecosystem projects that increase coastal resilience. The Administration has requested U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) funding for the Louisiana Coastal Area Program (LCA) in previous years, and Fiscal Year 2017 is an opportune time to refocus on this critical program to maximize synergies with RESTORE Act funding and increase the overall impact of coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana.

 

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The History of Coastal Restoration in Louisiana: More than 40 years of planning

August 17, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Diversions, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, K10, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Restoration Projects, Science

By Estelle Robichaux, Restoration Project Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund and Gaby Garcia, Science Intern, Environmental Defense Fund

The damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in Louisiana’s bird’s foot delta nearly 10 years ago, brought regional and national attention to the state’s dramatic and ongoing coastal land loss crisis. But this crisis, as well as innovative and large-scale solutions to reverse wetland loss, had been studied, discussed and planned by scientists and decision-makers for decades.

In a series of blog posts, we will explore a few of Louisiana’s early restoration plans that, in many ways, laid the groundwork for the 2012 Coastal Master Plan.

More than 40 years of restoration ideas & planning

In 1973, Louisiana State University’s Center for Wetland Resources published a multi-volume report titled "Environmental Atlas and Multi-Use Management Plan for South-Central Louisiana. The report provides an overview of the Barataria and Terrebonne Basins and recommendations for natural resource management and restoration.

One of the most notable recommendations is initial discussion of a freshwater and land-building river diversion into Barataria Basin at Myrtle Grove, a project now known as the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion. A number of other natural resource management options are described in the plan, including the engineering of barrier islands, use of salt domes for water management, hydrologic restoration and regulation of development.

But not all the ideas have had as much staying power as the notion of harnessing the muddy Mississippi River to restore and maintain coastal wetlands.

Barrier islands in lakes?

Barrier islands are a coastal area’s first line of defense against storm surge, wave action and tides. These islands not only provide important habitat for many bird species, but they protect natural and built infrastructure upon which Louisiana’s economy depends.

This early management plan suggests constructing barrier islands along the shorelines of large lakes and bays, to help stop erosion in these areas. The authors state that these islands would create new, more diversified habitats as well as enhanced recreational opportunities. While these would be nice benefits to have, it would require building a highly engineered, unnatural feature into the landscape.

Not only is this line of thinking something that ecologists and natural resource managers have moved away from, but these projects would not have done anything to address the root causes of land loss. Therefore, they would have been extremely expensive to maintain due to a lack of natural sediment input and continued saltwater intrusion.

Building out of harm’s way

One of the concepts proposed in the report is the establishment of a network of “development corridors” throughout south-central Louisiana. These corridors would ensure limited development in vulnerable coastal areas while encouraging urbanization in areas that have firmer soils, good drainage and are reasonably safe from flooding. They would have been focused on natural levee ridges for land stability and have access to major and minor waterways for commerce.

developmentcorridors

Development Corridors

Interestingly, the areas within the proposed network of corridors are the economic and population centers that many Louisianans are most concerned about protecting today. Moreover, the areas outside of this network, where the authors specifically discourage further development, are those that we now recognize as some of the most vulnerable to increased damage from storms and the threat of sea level rise.

A diversion at Myrtle Grove

Certain solutions in the report still maintain a presence in restoration efforts today, specifically the proposal to construct a freshwater diversion at Myrtle Grove. Today, this project is called the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion and has evolved into a plan to pulse high-velocity river water, full of sediment, into deteriorating wetlands in the adjacent Barataria Basin. Unlike the project defined in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, the 1973 plan focuses on using fresh water to help establish a proper salinity gradient and combat saltwater intrusion and has other, more complex plans for diverted sediment.

myrtle grove 2As with today’s sediment diversions, the plan recommends that water flow from the Mississippi River be regulated by a control structure, through a diversion canal and then into the basin. The authors predict that the diverted water would abruptly loose velocity on the basin-side of the canal and deposit sediment in a “silt fan” near the canal mouth. While some sediment would continue out into adjacent wetlands, recreating more naturally occurring conditions, sediment from the stilling lagoon and silt fan would be removed by a small dredge and conveyed via pipeline for either construction or restoration purposes.

Evolution in natural resource management & restoration

Clearly, the idea behind what is now a crucial component to Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, diverting fresh water and sediment from the river to build new land, has come a long way from its humble beginnings. And although many of the proposed restoration and management solutions in the 1973 report did not make the cut, the problems they sought to address still threaten the livelihoods and communities of coastal Louisiana.

Check back as we continue to trace this history of restoration planning in Louisiana, which only emphasizes the great need for restoration action now!

 

Want to get involved? Take the PLEDGE now to vote in the upcoming elections and urge candidates to support the following restoration principles:

1. Be a voice for coastal restoration progress

2. Protect Existing and Secure Future Coastal Restoration Funding

3. Support the Coastal Master Plan

Find out more at RestoretheCoast.org.

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Restore the Mississippi River Delta Launches “Restore the Coast” Community Engagement Campaign

August 14, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Economy, Media Resources, Restoration Projects

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                  

Contact:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org

Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition Launches “Restore the Coast” Community Engagement Campaign

Campaign Highlights Important Role Louisiana Leaders Play in Coastal Restoration

(August 14, 2015 – NEW ORLEANS) This weekend, the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition is launching the “Restore the Coast” community engagement campaign to highlight the important role Louisiana’s elected officials play in coastal restoration. This multifaceted, nonpartisan education campaign will begin by asking voters to sign a pledge urging leaders to: be a voice for coastal restoration, protect existing and secure future coastal restoration funding, and support Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan.

The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition – made up of national and local organizations working on coastal Louisiana restoration, including Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement announcing the new campaign:

“The ‘Restore the Coast’ campaign’s goal is to demonstrate the importance of coastal restoration as a central issue for all candidates. Its initial step will be to encourage Louisiana residents to do two things – pledge to vote, and urge elected officials to be a voice for coastal restoration, so our communities are better protected from hurricanes, floodwaters and other disasters. We believe that Louisiana needs leaders who protect existing and secure future coastal restoration funding and support the state’s Coastal Master Plan, so our future can be safeguarded through long-lasting, science-based coastal restoration projects.

“Our hope is to send a clear message to our public officials: Louisianians want leaders who will prioritize coastal restoration, by keeping restoration dollars for restoration and continuing the forward progress made through the coastal master planning process. Together, we can protect our communities and coast for generations to come.”

The “Restore the Coast” campaign includes television and radio commercials, billboards, print ads, tabling at local community events, as well as interactive street activities to engage the public and encourage social sharing of this important issue facing Louisiana. Learn more about the “Restore the Coast” campaign and pledge by visiting RestoreTheCoast.org.

Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition is a joint effort of non-profit organizations made up of science, public policy, economics and outreach experts working collaboratively to raise awareness and build support for science-based solutions to restore Louisiana’s coast. The coalition is comprised of staff experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. Together, they are working to restore Louisiana’s coast through long-lasting, science-based restoration solutions, as identified in the state’s Coastal Master Plan. Of the projects included in the Coastal Master Plan, they have identified a suite of 19 priority restoration projects that will collectively and drastically reduce wetland loss and help protect New Orleans and other coastal communities from the effects of tropical storms and hurricanes. Learn more at MississippiRiverDelta.org and RestoreTheCoast.org.

 

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