Conservation Groups Pleased to See Gulf Restoration Efforts Advance

October 5, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Federal Policy, Media Resources, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act


Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543,
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849,
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781,
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.767.4181,
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348,

Conservation Groups Pleased to See Gulf Restoration Efforts Advance

NRDA Trustees Release 1,500-Page Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan

(NEW ORLEANS – October 5, 2015) Today, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees released their draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (DARP) for the Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 oil disaster. The U.S. Department of Justice, BP and the five Gulf states also released their proposed Consent Decree to finalize the $20.8 billion agreement in principle resolving state and federal government claims against BP from the Gulf oil disaster.

In response to these announcements, national and local conservation organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement:

“More than five years after the oil disaster, we are encouraged to see Gulf restoration move forward with release of the NRDA Trustees’ draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan. While we have not yet engaged on the details of the plan, we applaud the Trustees for their work to get to this point.

“The oil disaster damaged hundreds of miles of shoreline; killed more than one million birds, mammals and other wildlife – and we will not know the full environmental effects of the spill for decades to come. The NRDA process will help bring the Gulf back to the state it was before the spill, and the release of this plan is a positive step toward that end. It is also encouraging to see the concept of maximizing sediment delivery included in the DARP, and the recognition of the potential value of that approach through river diversions.

“We are also pleased to see forward movement on finalizing the settlement with BP. Once the consent decree is approved, it will provide a steady funding stream to the Gulf – funds that are vital to the restoration and long-term ecological health of the region. In Louisiana, this money will help fund the state’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast.

“The health of the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast ecosystems is important not only to the communities and economies of the region, but to the entire nation that depends on the Gulf for ports, energy, seafood, tourism and other important industries.

“Today’s announcements get us one step closer to realizing a restored and revitalized Gulf Coast. We look forward to working with the NRDA Trustees on finalizing their plans.”


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 and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Expert Diversion Panel: State has all information needed to make decision on advancing diversions

October 1, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Diversions, Restoration Projects, Science

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

Diversion Locations

Diversion locations

Sediment diversions are restoration projects that carry sediment and water from the river through a gated structure on the levee into nearby basins, mimicking the way the Mississippi River once built much of southeast Louisiana. This type of project was identified in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan as a vital tool for far-reaching and long-lasting restoration of our coastal wetlands. Four sediment diversion projects from the Coastal Master Plan –Mid-Barataria, Mid-Breton, Lower-Barataria and Lower Breton – are currently moving forward in either planning or engineering and design. This fall, the state is expected to announce which sediment diversion projects they will continue move forward into full engineering and design.

Data collection and modeling efforts allowed the state to study and understand the full benefits that a sediment diversion could provide to our coastal wetlands and to anticipate the influence of the project on water levels, fisheries and salinity distribution in the receiving basins compared to future conditions without sediment diversions. In addition to those studies, an Expert Diversion Panel on Planning and Implementation – an independent group from outside of Louisiana with expertise in natural science, social science and engineering – was convened by the Water Institute of the Gulf to provide advice and guidance to CPRA on plans for sediment diversion projects.

The fifth meeting of this panel, held in August, focused on the state’s approach to using the data and modeling information to decide which sediment diversion projects will move forward. On September 16th, the Expert Panel released its report from that meeting, agreeing that the state had the information it needed to decide which sediment diversion projects to advance. The panel also decided that the socio-economic analysis and the work being done to predict the effect of diversions on the basins are appropriate for this stage of the process.

In the panel’s opinion “no other environmental restoration project in the nation has come so far so quickly.” The state’s decision on which sediment diversion projects to focus its efforts on and move into engineering and design is important, as it is one step forward in a longer process towards full implementation. Using sediment diversions to put the sediment of the river back to work for us is crucial for restoration and one the best tools we have to create a sustainable future for Louisiana.

You can show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at

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New report quantifies storm reduction benefits of natural infrastructure and nature-based measures

September 29, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Restoration Projects, Science

By Shannon Cunniff, Deputy Director for Water, Environmental Defense Fund

Coastal zones are the most densely populated areas in the world. In the U.S., they generate more than 42 percent of the nation’s total economic output. These coastal communities, cities and infrastructure are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising seas and increased storms, as well as ongoing coastal development, have stripped these natural environments of their innate resilience to storms and flooding, leaving coastlines and the people who live there especially exposed.

EDF photo beach dune

Beach dune

Protecting coastal areas requires a multipronged approach. Traditional hardened infrastructure, such as levees and floodwalls, should be combined with natural infrastructure, such as dunes and barrier islands, to optimize storm protection. By attenuating wave energy, natural infrastructure measures can enhance the performance of and complement traditional gray infrastructure. And in certain situations, natural coastal infrastructure measures can reverse coastal erosion, help rebuild shorelines and even keep pace with rising sea levels.

Natural coastal infrastructure measures also provide significant co-benefits to communities. In addition to reducing the effects of storm waves and surge, these wetlands and other plant-based means also improve water quality, enhance recreational and commercial fisheries, add to the coastal esthetic and attract tourists. Their installation or restoration can also buy time for communities as they develop long-term strategic plans to cope with sea level rise.

In Louisiana, coastal planners understand the importance of nature-based designs, such as sediment diversions and barrier beach nourishment, when developing coastal restoration and protection plans – the state’s Coastal Master Plan is a combination of restoration, protection and resiliency projects.

But with their myriad of benefits, why aren’t natural infrastructure measures being implemented to a greater degree in other parts of the nation?

In part, the reason is the lack of accepted engineering design guidance – a document that explains the engineering principles, issues, methods, and performance metrics for evaluating, siting and designing features. Lacking such, engineers cannot formally sign off on the designs and risk benefits that will be realized.

How can we quantify the storm risk reduction benefits of nature-based measures, so as to help decision-makers and planners choose the best methods for their needs and find financing to implement these projects? Can we accelerate development of engineering guidance?

Natural Infrastructure Workshop and Report

Mangroves public domain pix


Seeking to answer these questions, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) convened a workshop of 19 coastal engineers, scientists, program managers, and financiers to discuss establishing storm risk reduction performance measures of various natural coastal infrastructure solutions.

After completion, EDF produced the report, “Performance of Natural Infrastructure and Nature-Based Measures as Coastal Risk Reduction Features,” which reviews the state of knowledge on the risk reduction performance of natural and nature-based infrastructure, compiled from existing literature as well as workshop participant input. The report includes findings on a host of nature-based measures, including beach nourishment, vegetated dunes, barrier island restoration, edging and sills (living shorelines), oyster reefs, coral reefs, mangroves, maritime forests and coastal wetlands (non-mangroves).

While the report is a bit technical, the authors hope that city planners, coastal engineers and other decision-makers find it useful when determining which storm protection measures to implement in their communities.

Grand Terre_Abita SOS 2

Grand Terre

For each of the measures, the report summarizes its storm risk reduction attributes (e.g., wave attenuation and storm surge protection); lists its strengths, known weaknesses and uncertainties about utility for risk reduction; and identifies suitable conditions for implementation. The report also indicates where engineering design guidelines already exist (e.g., for beach nourishment and dune building) and whether they can be created by modifying existing guidelines (e.g., oyster and coral reefs function like submerged breakwaters).

For the layperson, Table 1 is a one stop shop for information on how each storm risk reduction measure stacks up next to other methods. The table is a summary of the strategies – natural, nature-based, as well as structural – and how each compares regarding risk reduction performance, costs, climate change mitigation, and adaptability to seal level rise and changing community needs.

NI Performance Summary Table

To guide further research supporting adoption of natural infrastructure into coastal resilience plans, the report provides the most catalytic and pressing research needs and lists other survey needs gathered from the literature or raised during the workgroup discussion.

Workshop participants – and subsequent consultation with other engineering experts – confirm that there is sufficient confidence in the ability of natural coastal infrastructure measures to reduce impacts of storms and sea level rise to coastal communities, such that these approaches should be routinely considered as viable options by decision-makers.

With what we know now, implementation of these approaches can be facilitated by developing detailed engineering guidelines that provide functional and structural design guidance as well as address other design issues. As projects are built and monitored, we can further expand knowledge of the circumstances where these measures work best; learn more about how traditional structural, nonstructural, natural infrastructure and nature-based measures can optimally work together; understand how coastal processes are effected; and track the measures’ life expectancies in our increasingly dynamic coastal environments.

You can show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at

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MRD Priority Restoration Projects Included in Restore Council's Initial Draft Funded Priorities List

September 27, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 19 Priority Projects, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Meetings/Events, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

By Helen Rose Patterson, Greater New Orleans Outreach Coordinator, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition

Last week, the RESTORE Council completed the last of six public meetings about their draft Initial Funded Priorities List. Restore the Mississippi River Delta staff attended the meeting in New Orleans on the University of New Orleans campus.

Justin Ehrenwerth, executive director of the RESTORE Council, provided a brief overview of the Council-selected priority watersheds in the Gulf and a more detailed explanation of the projects in Louisiana. Attendees were then given a chance to address the council. The comments were generally positive and tended in the direction of ‘let’s get started rebuilding the coast.’

The seven proposed Louisiana projects include four that are part of Restore the Mississippi River Delta’s list of nineteen priority projects:

  1. Golden Triangle Marsh Creation will provide further protection to New Orleans’ surge barrier and improve the estuary habitat in Lake Borgne.
  2. The Biloxi Marsh Living Shoreline project will provide planning dollars to restore the important habitat and reduce shoreline erosion in the area.
  3. The Mississippi River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp will provide further planning funds for a freshwater diversion from the Mississippi River into the Maurepas swamp which will improve wetland health and provide protection for communities to the west of Lake Pontchartrain.
  4. Finally, the West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment and Stabilization project, part of the larger Barataria Pass to Sandy Point Restoration priority project, would provide for planning to restore and enhance dune and back barrier marsh habitat on West Grand Terre to address shoreline erosion and marsh subsidence.


The FPL also includes other projects important to the Mississippi River Delta, such as canal backfilling in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve and funding for improved study of management of the lowermost Mississippi River.

We appreciate the inclusion of these projects and hope it is just the Council’s first step in addressing long-standing issues in the Mississippi River Delta. We also appreciate that the Council has gone to great lengths to leverage funding from other sources as this will maximize the impact of their investments. Moving forward, we would like to see a more transparent process for the selection and prioritization of projects. We believe that the priorities found in the RESTORE Act should be at the forefront of the Council’s project selection framework and we encourage them to elaborate on how these priorities were integrated into the process of creating this list. We hope that moving forward, project lists will be more focused on large-scale, multi-year projects to more fully achieve the goals of the RESTORE Act.

Citizens have until September 28th to provide comments on the projects. Those comments can be submitted by emailing or mailing to: Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. Attention: Draft FPL Comments, Hale Boggs Federal Building, 500 Poydras Street, Suite 1117, New Orleans, LA 70130.

You can show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at

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Remembering Rita: 10 Years Later

September 24, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Economy, Hurricane Rita, Hurricanes, People, Profiles in Resilience, Restoration Projects

Today, September 24, marks 10 years since Hurricane Rita – the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico – slammed ashore sending a storm surge up to 18 feet in some locations, killing 120 people, damaging areas stretching from Plaquemines to Cameron Parishes and into Texas and causing over $10 billion in damages.

Rita demonstrated that the best offense against future storms is strong “Multiple Lines of Defense” that begins with restoring and preserving the wetlands that buffer wind and waves working in conjunction will structural risk reduction measures and non-structural measures, such as levees and home elevation.

This week, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition welcomes guest authors to our “Delta Dispatches” blog to share their perspectives of Rita and where things stand ten years later.

Hurricane Rita – A palpable shift in the evolution of sustainable housing in Coastal Louisiana.
by: Peg Case, Director of TRAC (Terrebonne Readiness & Assistance Coalition), Houma, LA

Terrebonne Parish is over 85% wetland and open water. Barataria-Terrebonne Basins continue to suffer the highest land loss rates in the state. There are five bayous stretching to the Gulf of Mexico like fingers of a hand. These bayou communities, most vulnerable to the effects of storm surge flooding, are where TRAC, a community-based, long-term disaster recovery organization, has focused its recovery efforts for the past 23 years.

The double sets of hurricanes that affected our parish in 2002, 2005 and 2008 delivered wind and water repeatedly to these bayou communities. Over 13,000 homes were impacted – homes  flooded with five to seven feet of water and swamp mud, wind ravaged roofs and exterior – not once but six times in a period of six years!

The shift from awareness to sustainable action has been years in the making. However, last decades’ disasters brought unprecedented funding streams from both private and government avenues. Since 2005, 1,037 elevation permits have been issued in Terrebonne Parish. The average elevation height is 10-12 feet costing $80.00 per square foot.  Sustainable replacement housing was developed and constructed, such as TRAC’s LA Lift House. (

However these projects were random, need-based, program-eligibility-based, and funded by the destruction of six hurricanes. Looking to the future, we, the collective community involved in coastal restoration, need to address simultaneously sustainable housing activities with funding, planning and partnerships if we are to preserve the culture and communities that live along our coastlines.

Case is contributing author to Disasters by Design: A Reassessment of Natural Hazards in the United States.  She also served as a panel member for the U.S. Senate’s 103rd Congress Appropriations Sub-Committee hearing on hurricane preparedness and evacuation. She currently serves on LAVOAD Board of Directors.

To contact:

You can show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at

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