Groups Challenge Proposed Raids on Coastal Restoration Funds

February 10, 2016 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in Media Resources

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org

Groups Challenge Proposed Raids on Coastal Restoration Funds

Conservation organizations urge Administration, Congress to protect GOMESA funds for Louisiana coastal restoration

(Washington, D.C.—February 10, 2016) In response to the release of President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal and the U.S. Senate debate on energy legislation, national and local conservation groups working together on Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana – released the following statement:

“We oppose any efforts by the Administration or Congress that undercut commitments to restore critical ecosystems in Louisiana’s Mississippi River Delta, where we are losing 16 square miles of vital wetlands every year – a preventable coastal erosion crisis.

“These wetlands, which are nationally significant for both our environment and economy, will be lost without concerted and immediate investments. And those investments – currently underway through implementation of the 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan – absolutely depend upon Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funding, which is constitutionally committed in Louisiana to a Coastal Trust Fund that supports that plan. Failure to honor that federal commitment would directly result in accelerated land loss, habitat destruction and further degradation of this world-class ecosystem.

“The Mississippi River Delta is a national treasure that is home to millions of Americans, provides vital wildlife habitat, and supports billions of dollars in seafood industries, navigation interests, and energy production. This landscape deserves our full attention, including a comprehensive restoration strategy dependent on continued GOMESA funding, which must not be withdrawn or constrained.”

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The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of threatening land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Composed of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, we are located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. Learn more at MississippiRiverDelta.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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What can the 1927 flood teach us about coastal restoration?

February 2, 2016 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Diversions, Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Restoration Projects, Science

By Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund

During the historic 1927 flood, a portion of the Mississippi River levee south of New Orleans was dynamited to lower the water level and prevent catastrophic flooding – seen in much of the Mississippi River Basin – from occurring in the city. This explosion created a 2-kilometer wide crevasse, which redirected water into nearby Breton Sound.

Nearly 90 years later, scientists have completed measurements in the upper Breton Sound basin to quantify the sediment deposition in the 50-square-mile crevasse splay created by the levee break.

In the study, “Sediment Deposition at the Caernarvon Crevasse during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927: Implications for Coastal Restoration,” John W. Day et al. state that “The 1927 crevasse deposition shows how pulsed flooding can enhance sediment capture efficiency and deposition and serves as an example for large planned diversions for Mississippi delta restoration.”

Figure 2. The Breton Sound Estuary. Dots indicate where core samples were taken and the approximate area of the crevasse splay deposit based on researchers measurements. Blue dots indicate cores that has additional analysis carried out. Upper right inset: aerial photo showing Mississippi River flowing through the 1927 Caernarvon levee breach. Dark black line at hte site of the crevasse is the estimated width of the levee breach.

Figure 2. The Breton Sound Estuary. Dots indicate where core samples were taken and the approximate area of the crevasse splay deposit based on researchers' measurements. Blue dots indicate cores that had additional analysis carried out. Upper right inset: aerial photo showing Mississippi River flowing through the 1927 Caernarvon levee breach. Dark black line at the site of the crevasse is the estimated width of the levee breach. John W. Day et al.

Researchers found a distinct layer of sediment from the 1927 crevasse, ranging from 0.8-16.5 inches thick, at 23 of the sites they sampled, with the thickest layer closest to the river. The investigators estimated that more than 40 million tons of sediment flowed from the Mississippi River into Breton Sound during the 108 days the crevasse was open.

The marshes in the splay captured approximately 55-75 percent of the suspended sediments that poured through the crevasse, which resulted in the deposition of roughly 30 million tons of sediment within the 50-square-mile crevasse splay. In one core, the sediment deposition rate in 1927 was at least 0.8 inches per month – that’s 10 times more than the annual post-1927 average. The results of this study could have important implications for future coastal restoration projects, specifically sediment diversions.

Lessons learned for restoration

The flood of 1927 was an unprecedented, fatal flood that caused massive and widespread economic and structural damages. Louisiana, as well as all the other communities along the Mississippi River, are now largely protected by a federal system of levees and spillways, as evidenced during this year’s winter flood.

But the 1927 flood also provided a major land-building opportunity, as wetlands help provide protection from future flooding and loss of life. Large, episodic flood events, like the 1927 flood and this winter’s high-water event, can be used to build vast land in relatively short periods of time, while balancing the needs of the ecosystem and the people and wildlife that depend on it.

The state of Louisiana is currently working to engineer and design controlled river diversions, which would harness the power of the river to build land. This past fall, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority voted to advance the Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton sediment diversions. Controlled sediment diversions like these are vital components of any large-scale restoration plans.

Possible effects on fisheries

Despite their land-building potential, there currently exist some questions and concerns about how sediment diversions will affect fisheries. The researchers determined that the periodic opening of flood control structures, such as the Bonnet Carré Spillway and the 1927 crevasse, during high-water events, demonstrate the balance that can be achieved between inflows of fresh water and fishery concerns.

“The periodic opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway and the 1927 crevasse at Caernarvon serve as good models for understanding the significance of this fishery concern. The periodic openings have minimized algal blooms to short periods and resulted in larger fisheries catches in years following openings,” the study says.

“Given predictions of accelerated sea level rise, increasing human impacts, and growing energy scarcity, delta restoration should be aggressive and large-scale. We believe that restoration of the Mississippi delta will require diversions similar in scale to historical crevasses if they are to be most effective.”

How was the research conducted? 

The scientists collected 23 sediment cores that extended down 1 meter throughout the 50-square-mile crevasse outfall area. The core sediments were analyzed for sediment type, properties and age. Deposition of sediment from the crevasse extended over seven miles from the break in the levee.

The 1927 sediment deposits were found at an average depth of 13.8 inches below the marsh surface, suggesting a post-1927 deposition rate of 0.2 inches per year. Deposition rates ranged from 0.2 to 4.6 inches per month over the 3.6 months that the crevasse was open.

The estimated sediment load entering through the crevasse from the river during the 1927 event was 40 to 54 million tons, and roughly 30 million tons of that sediment was deposited and retained within the 50-square-mile crevasse splay. Based on the varying thickness of the 1927 deposit over the splay, the volume of the 1927 deposit could cover 11.5 square miles with about 3 feet of sediment.

The lessons learned from researching previous high-water events can help planners design the best, most effective restoration solutions to help rebuild wetlands vital to our future.

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Mississippi River’s High Water Brings (Literally) Tons of Needed Sediment to Louisiana

January 20, 2016 | Posted by jhebert in 2011 Mississippi River Flood, Army Corps of Engineers, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Diversions, Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Science

By Alisha Renfro, Staff Scientist, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, National Wildlife Federation

This is the second in a series of blog posts focusing on the recent opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway in response to the Mississippi River high-water event. See the first post on the history of the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) system here

The current high-water event on the Mississippi River is sending more than one million cubic feet of water per second down the lower Mississippi River, carrying with it sediment that is an essential ingredient to restoring Louisiana’s wetlands. The unfortunate irony is that a great deal of this sediment is passing right through Louisiana and off the outer continental shelf, beyond where it can be of any immediate restorative benefit to the state’s vanishing wetlands.

Historically, flood events like this helped to build and maintain the once vast wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta. Today, without sediment diversion projects in place, much of that turbid brown water completely bypasses our sediment-starved wetlands and is lost. Once in place, sediment diversions, integrated with the flood protection system, will capture this opportunity and put the river back to work rebuilding our wetlands.

SedimentGraphJan2016

On average, the Mississippi River carries about 2.5 tons of sediment per second past the Belle Chasse river gage south of New Orleans. However, during high discharge events, sediment load in the river can increase considerably. When river discharge reaches one million cubic feet per second, roughly 6.5 tons of sediment is carried past the Belle Chasse station every second – that’s more than double the average.

Over the last two years, an estimated 184 million tons of sediment has passed Belle Chasse. Some of this sediment is deposited in the river channel, in wetlands and in shallow water around the Bird’s Foot Delta. However, most of this sediment is lost to deeper waters off the continental shelf, as seen in the above MODIS satellite image.

As Louisiana’s land loss crisis has worsened, the need to capture and use this sediment is greater than ever. But while our sediment counter continues to tick away, some progress has been made. Since 2012, projects in the vicinity of Lake Hermitage, Bayou Dupont and Grand Liard have used sediment dredged from the river to create land. Even more significant, last October, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority recommended the advancement of two sediment diversion projects at Mid Barataria and Mid Breton into engineering and design. Together, marsh creation and sediment diversion projects will better leverage the precious resource that is constantly flowing through our state to help restore Louisiana’s coast.

Hopefully the next time we have a high-water event like this one, we’ll have sediment diversions in place to make the most out of the situation: to both reduce potential flooding AND capture sediment for restoration. Now that’s a win-win.

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Louisiana Releases Draft Annual Plan for Coastal Restoration and Protection

January 12, 2016 | Posted by jhebert in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Diversions, Restoration Projects, State Legislature

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
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org

Louisiana Releases Draft Annual Plan for Coastal Restoration and Protection
Plan Includes CPRA’s Recommendations for Two Sediment Diversions

(BATON ROUGE, La. – January 12, 2016) Last week, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) released its draft Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Annual Plan for Integrated Ecosystem Restoration and Hurricane Protection in Coastal Louisiana. This year’s Annual Plan expands on last fall’s recommendation by CPRA to advance two sediment diversion projects at Mid Barataria and Mid Breton.

CPRA is required by the state legislature to produce an Annual Plan that reports on the progress of projects as well as project funding schedules and budgets. The agency will host a series of three public meetings this week in Lake Charles, New Orleans and Thibodaux and is accepting comments on the draft plan.

National and local conservation groups working together on Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana – released the following statement:

“The drafting of the Annual Plan is a vital part of the restoration process in Louisiana. It gives CPRA the opportunity to take inventory of projects in the Coastal Master Plan, project real dollars to continue progress and communicate directly with the public on the status and potential futures of specific projects.

“We are pleased to see the most current and best-available science from the Coastal Master Plan process continue to drive prioritization and planning by CPRA. As the Annual Plan says, the Mid Barataria and Mid Breton sediment diversions must continue to move forward into engineering and design, and eventually, implementation.

“Sediment diversions like these provide the best opportunity to restore our coast over time. They use the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to help rebuild our collapsing delta – the power, sediment and water from the Mississippi River itself. Our disappearing land can only survive if we allow the river that built it to rebuild and sustain it. Ensuring these diversions move forward in an expedited manner should be of utmost importance to us all.

“We look forward to continuing to work alongside CPRA, other organizations and residents all along the coast to get diversions up and running.”

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The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of threatening land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Composed of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, we are located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. Learn more at MississippiRiverDelta.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Rising Mississippi River: Implications for Louisiana’s Vanishing Wetlands

January 8, 2016 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in Media Resources

Rising Mississippi River: Implications for Louisiana’s Vanishing Wetlands

Expert Interview and B-Roll Opportunities

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
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org

At 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 10, 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will open the Bonnet Carré Spillway, which is upriver from New Orleans, and potentially will open the Morganza Floodway, which diverts excess floodwater from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin, a few days later. These openings are due to unusually early flood conditions on the Mississippi River – a result of heavy winter rainfall throughout much of the Mississippi River’s drainage basin. Twenty-nine deaths and loss of property in Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma are a stark reminder of how dangerous Mississippi River floods can be.

While these high-water events are important reminders of the need to manage the Mississippi River for flood protection, they also highlight the opportunity to leverage the power and sediment of the Mississippi River to address Louisiana’s land loss crisis.

When opened, the Bonnet Carré Spillway can shunt up to 250,000 cubic feet per second of sediment-laden water from the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain to reduce pressure on the river levees and prevent flooding. This sediment could go to rebuilding Louisiana’s wetlands – and this is not the only area where precious sediment is being wasted. Over the last two years alone, approximately 176 million tons of sediment has been transported down the river and much of that has escaped through the mouth of the Mississippi River and off the outer continental shelf – beyond where it can be of any immediate use to restoration efforts.

Louisiana’s coastline is losing a football field of land ever hour, largely due to a lack of sediment from the river replenishing starving wetlands. During high-water events like this one, the river contains more water and sediment than usual. Without restoration projects like sediment diversions in place to utilize this influx of sediment for coastal restoration, this vital component for restoring our coast are lost. In the future, when sediment diversions are put in place, we’ll be able to utilize the increase sediment for coastal restoration and manage flood waters through many valves. The Louisiana Legislature and Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Board are set to vote to fund the advancement of two sediment diversions in Plaquemines Parish, Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton sediment diversions, in the months ahead.

Experts from the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition will be available for interviews at the Corps’ press conference on Sunday, January 10 as well as in the days leading up to and the weeks following the opening. They can discuss the need to use the natural power of the river – and the sediment it holds – to restore Louisiana’s degraded coastal wetlands.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Press Conference Details

WHEN: Sunday, January 10, 2016
WHERE: Bonnet Carré Spillway, 16302 River Rd, Norco, LA 70079
EXPERTS: Steve Cochran, Campaign Director, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition and Associate Vice President for Coastal Protection, Environmental Defense Fund
John A. Lopez, Ph.D., Executive Director, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
David Muth, Director for Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation
Douglas J. Meffert, D. Env., MBA, Executive Director, National Audubon Society (Audubon Louisiana)
Alisha Renfro, Ph.D., Coastal Scientist, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation

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