Archive for 2012 Coastal Master Plan
By Maura Wood (National Wildlife Federation) and Brian Jackson (Environmental Defense Fund)
For decades, the people of southern Louisiana have gradually struggled with the collapse of the Mississippi River Delta. Land that once provided shelter from hurricanes, space for agriculture, a basis for livelihoods and a source for recreation has — sometimes in one generation — disappeared. This slow-motion crisis has forced communities and economies along Louisiana’s coast to adapt to collapse.
Large-scale restoration of the delta provides new hope that the system can again become sustainable. But turning coastal Louisiana around from a system losing land to one rebuilding it will require transition and adaptation for coastal residents and communities. Change is inevitable, but the direction of that change will shift dramatically from the loss that communities have been adapting to for generations to a more dynamic and sustainable system that is gaining land.
Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan sets out bold action for restoration and importantly highlights the need for “providing for transitions,” i.e. addressing potential changes that stakeholders may face as projects are implemented and acknowledging the grief and adjustment imposed by existing land loss.
The master plan uses many methods of restoration, asserting that “The action we need requires changing the landscape, not just tweaking what we already have.” Projects such as marsh creation, sediment diversions, ridge restoration, oyster barrier reefs and hydrologic restoration have been chosen for their ability to build land and sustain the coast over the long term. At the same time, they may also be accompanied by short or long-term changes in water elevation and salinity regimes as diversions are operated; changes in access as land is built and hydrology is restored; shifts in habitats in response to land building; and other social, cultural, and economic changes as a result of physical changes to the landscape. The plan stresses that “If we don’t take large-scale action, land loss and flooding will grow so severe that ours will be the last generation that benefits from Louisiana’s working coast.”
The master plan commits to helping communities and user groups adapt to these changes three ways: by developing a planning framework for adapting to change; by involving stakeholders in project design to minimize impacts; and by identifying tools that may assist communities, businesses, and individuals in transitioning to a sustainable — but likely different — new coastal regime.
The challenge is to flesh out these commitments into a creative discussion that moves beyond despair and dislocation. Ideally, transition from the collapsing coast of today to a dynamic but sustainable coast of the future will continue and renew the connection between land, livelihoods, communities and culture. Perhaps through the “planning framework,” stakeholders themselves will be able to propose how transition can result in building a better future for individuals, communities and businesses.
Because the environmental challenges we face are unprecedented, bold actions must be taken. The ultimate benefits and impacts of such actions lie in the future and cannot be completely known. But we know that without action, our coast will continue collapsing. Increasing our ability to work together — marked by increased collaboration, communication, networking and interaction, as well as the establishment of common goals and mutual trust — increases our ability to make decisions, correct mistakes and create a coastal future together. Therefore, the Coastal Master Plan’s commitment to engaging stakeholders and addressing transition is a linchpin for successful forward progress toward a sustainable coast for everyone.No Comments
By David Muth, Louisiana State Director, National Wildlife Federation
Now that Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan is law, it is critical that the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) moves the process forward as quickly as possible. While the plan lays out a series of projects for over its fifty-year timeframe, the actual sequence of projects has not yet been completely planned. The sooner CPRA can finalize this project list and timeline, the sooner vital construction and restoration can begin.
Several things are necessary for creating that list of projects. First is to carry out continued modeling to measure how projects and suites of projects will interact with one another. One example is looking at how a mid-Barataria 50,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) sediment diversion will interact with marsh creation projects in the middle Barataria Basin and with a ring levee and community resiliency measures for the nearby town of Lafitte.
Second is to work out how funding streams can be most effectively sequenced to begin building out the projects identified in the list. This is especially critical with Clean Water Act penalty funding to be distributed under the RESTORE Act and the separate Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process. These funding sources, resulting from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, could become available at almost any time over the next few years.
Third is to move quickly to implement nonstructural hurricane risk reduction measures. Nonstructural storm protection measures are those that build community resiliency by means other than “structural” methods such as levees, floodwalls and floodgates. They include raising structures and homes up out of danger, hardening infrastructure and assisting with voluntary relocation. Unfortunately, the suite of existing nonstructural programs is reactive: invoked after, but not before, a disaster. That has to be changed moving forward.
Another challenge concerns the Chenier Plain in southwest Louisiana. The key to long-term restoration in that area is to find ways to modify the hydrology of the area’s navigation system to prevent the continued influx of sea water into formerly freshwater marshes. Simple on paper, tricky in practice.
At an implementation level, two important capabilities need to be developed for the master plan to move forward. One is to demonstrate the feasibility of long-distance pipeline sediment delivery. Much of the Coastal Master Plan depends upon finding a viable way to move vast volumes of sediment many tens of miles through dredge pipes. We have a great deal of experience with relatively smaller scale projects for both marsh creation and barrier island restoration, but the master plan proposes projects that will be carried out on a much larger scale — moving material over much greater distances than ever before. While there seems to be no technical reason this cannot be done, actually doing it will be important for fine tuning the plan.
Similarly, we need to test and demonstrate a sediment diversion somewhere other than at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The very existence of southeast Louisiana proves that such diversions build land. We have extensive experience cutting artificial distributaries near the mouth of the river and letting them build land – from Cubit’s Gap and a dozen other cuts on the Mississippi below Venice to the Wax Lake Outlet on the lower Atchafalaya River. We also know that crevasses through the man-made levee system prior to 1928 moved vast quantities of sediment into the upper estuaries. But we have never deliberately designed and constructed a controlled sediment diversion, and we will learn a great deal more than modeling can tell us by actually doing it.
All told, the to-do list for Coastal Master Plan implementation seems long, but with RESTORE Act and NRDA fines on the way, we will have the funding to jumpstart restoration. Combine this funding with the proper planning and prioritization, and coastal Louisiana will take several steps closer to a more sustainable future.1 Comment
At just five months old, Mardi Gras Pass is the newest distributary of the Mississippi River – a modern addition to an ancient system. Located about 50 miles south of New Orleans on the east bank of the river, the pass was discovered by Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF) staff on Mardi Gras Day 2012. The natural flow of the Mississippi River had cut a continuous channel through the river’s bank and into the Bohemia Spillway, creating a new distributary and offering a small glimpse at what a natural delta system looks like.
On August 1, Louisiana’s Governor’s Coastal Advisory Commission held their regular meeting in Davant in Plaquemines Parish. At the meeting, Dr. John Lopez, executive director and coastal sustainability program director for LPBF, presented on the status of Mardi Gras Pass to the commission. The presentation showcased how LPBF and its partners were taking every advantage to study and learn about the river’s natural ability to connect to the wetlands. In June, LPBF released a report on the dimensions of the new channel, and its staff continues to regularly monitor the pass’s progress. Both the report and Dr. Lopez’s presentation can be found at SaveOurLake.org.
Mardi Gras Pass’s flow has increased modestly since February, but the discharge is almost entirely dependent on the height of the Mississippi River water level. This summer, while the river has been exceptionally low, the flow rate has been less than 500 cubic feet per second. But when the river rises toward the end of the year, the flow could be ten times greater.
The Governor’s Commission also visited Bohemia Spillway and Mardi Gras Pass themselves. They were taken to a location where the newly-established Mardi Gras Pass has cut through a private road within the spillway, making it impassable. A local oil company has applied for a permit to repair the road, which could close off the flow from the river and block the pass. The state has expressed scientific interest in Mardi Gras Pass and recognizes it as a potential restoration opportunity. Therefore, the state has requested that the company evaluate alternatives to repairing the road which would allow the pass to still function.
The Commission also visited the actual location where Mardi Gras Pass has cut through the Mississippi River’s bank. Some Commission members had never seen the Mississippi River without an artificial river levee, and it was a moving experience to see the river in its natural condition and to see the meandering Mardi Gras Pass’s channel cutting through the river’s willow tree forested bank. Mardi Gras Pass is a real-life example of nature at work. As a natural distributary and natural diversion, Mardi Gras Pass represents a small precursor to what a more natural Mississippi River and delta could look like in a Coastal Master Plan future.
- Presentation to Governor's Commission: Status of Mardi Gras Pass, the Newest Distributary Pass of the Mississippi River within the Bohemia Spillway, Southeast Louisiana (Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation)
By Amanda Moore, Greater New Orleans Program Manager, National Wildlife Federation
Despite torrential rains and flooded streets, well over 100 residents in the Greater New Orleans area ventured out on the evening of July 18th to engage in a discussion about coastal restoration. National Wildlife Federation was proud to partner with the City of New Orleans as forum hosts and welcomed speakers Wes Kungel of Senator Mary Landrieu’s office, Garret Graves of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, and Colonel Ed Fleming of the Army Corps of Engineers.
At this historic time for the Mississippi River Delta, with so much in play, it’s important to ensure that stakeholders in the Greater New Orleans area are aware of the latest developments for our coast. Events like these also offer citizens the chance to engage in the restoration process that will help protect the city from storm events and create new economic opportunities. The audience was full of note-takers as our speakers gave an overview of current events, emphasized the public’s role in making sure our restoration efforts are a success and answered audience questions in a lively Q&A session for well over an hour.
The evening started with Mr. Kungel’s review of the recent passage of the RESTORE Act, which will bring between $5 and 21 billion dollars to the Gulf Coast for restoration, and what it means to Louisiana. He let us know what lies ahead for RESTORE, such as the December 2012 final pretrial conference that leads to the Clean Water Act penalty assessment and activation of RESTORE Act provision. Mr. Graves spoke next about the 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, which he referred to as the “most innovative coastal plan in the country.” The plan was passed in the Louisiana Legislature this year and will be a major driver for how RESTORE funds are spent in Louisiana. Finally, Col. Fleming discussed coastal restoration projects the Corps is engaged with in the Greater New Orleans area, like restoration planning along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and how local contractors can get involved in construction of projects.
Col. Fleming said it well, “In building restoration projects, you can put a lot of folks to work, save the environment, and build a buffer zone [from storms] all at the same time.”
That sounds like a plan to me.
The forum marked the first in a series of events to be hosted by NWF and the City of New Orleans. Check out photos from the event here.No Comments
The Next 50 Years: Climate change and the Coastal Master Plan: “Hope for the best but plan for the worst”July 19, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Coastal Master Plan series, Diversions, Hurricanes, Science
By Dr. Doug Meffert, Executive Director, Audubon Louisiana
Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan takes a realistic and critical examination of the effects of climate change impacts on the future of coastal Louisiana, both in terms of prioritization of restoration projects as well as risk reduction. In its “less optimistic scenario,” the master plan estimates 0.45 meters of sea level rise over the next fifty years. This is in addition to between zero and 25 millimeters per year of land subsidence, with the fragile deltaic plain having the highest rates. The resultant combination of sea level rise and subsidence predicts that relative sea level rise will be more than one meter during the next century in some areas of the Mississippi River Delta. Additionally, this scenario anticipates a 20 percent increase in storm intensity and a 2.5 percent increase in storm frequency for Category 1 hurricanes and greater. As climate change brings more severe storms and rising seas to Louisiana’s coast, it is important to incorporate these predictions into the formulation of the Coastal Master Plan.
This “less optimistic scenario” predicts a very different and more vulnerable coast than we had in the 20th century. The master plan uses this scenario for its predictions for future flooding from a 100-year event and for prioritization of restoration projects, since what is labeled as “less optimistic” in the report could just as accurately be labeled as “increasingly likely.” This scenario is consistent with the recent assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), the findings from the Durban Climate Change Conference in November 2011, and more recently, peer-reviewed articles (Blum and Roberts, 2012; Day et al., 2012). In fact, one of the master plan’s Science and Engineering Board members, Dr. Virginia Burkett, was a coauthor of the IPCC’s 2007 report, which garnered the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for the IPCC.
“Hope for the best but plan for the worst” is the adage adopted by the Coastal Master Plan, and I couldn’t agree more. As it is, there is not enough sediment in the Mississippi River to offset the predicted land loss from relative sea level rise and erosion if we do nothing. This means we need to act now for a future coast that supports the fisheries, birds and other ecological services upon which we depend. We need to plan for a future coast that still provides a natural storm surge buffer for our cities, towns and critical infrastructure. That future coast will just be different than what we’ve known in the past. And that future coast depends on implementing large-scale river diversions with no further delay. We finally have a realistic master plan based on the best science possible. Now, we just need to implement it.
This was originally posted by Vanishing Paradise.
By Chris Macaluso, Louisiana Wildlife Federation
When you invite staff from two of the most prominent outdoors publications in the country to experience south Louisiana’s tremendous fishing, you cross your fingers that the weather will allow you to show off everything the Mississippi River Delta has to offer.
Despite tides three feet above normal and white-capped waves in normally calm inland ponds, the intrepid guides at Cajun Fishing Adventures were able to improvise and put our guests on some fish.
On the first day, ten boats carrying the writers, photographers and Vanishing Paradise staff concentrated their fishing on the east side of the river. After bucking and bouncing through three-foot waves in the Mississippi River, the boats meandered through a maze of crevasses, cuts and sloughs that help spread the life-giving water and sediment from the river into the wetlands between the Mississippi River and Breton Sound.
The marshes on this side of the river are the true representation of Sportsmen’s Paradise. Mottled and wood ducks, roseate spoonbills, herons and ibises all took to the sky as boats passed while large alligators and otters slid from grassy banks into the water to escape the oncoming vessels. Lush, seed-bearing vegetation lined every bayou, canal and bay. Submerged grass mats lined the banks, filtering the sediment and harboring schools of forage fish like mullet and menhaden as well as the predators like redfish, largemouth bass and flounder. Those grasses are also food for millions of migrating ducks and geese when they come to Louisiana’s coast each fall and winter.
Redfish chased the minnows and crabs dislodged by the rising tides into marsh waters less than two feet deep. Berkley Gulp jerk shads on light jig heads and spinnerbaits tossed into narrow pockets and worked tight along grass beds produced 15 beautiful redfish, a couple bass and a handful of flounder for my boat. Others boats fished cuts in the main river channel for reds and even a couple hard-fighting striped bass.
The next day, we experienced the contrast between Buras’ east and west sides. On the west side of the river, levees have cut off all the natural cuts and crevasses that connect the river to its wetlands. Consequently, the marsh on the west side is vanishing faster than any other landmass in the world. Three decades ago these wetlands stretched more than 10 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Now the area is home to wide expanses of featureless, open water and is largely void of fish and waterfowl habitat.
But when the conditions line up just right, the fishing can still be incredible, as we soon discovered. Our four-man crew landed more than 50 speckled trout and redfish in a four-hour stretch, but even these fish are dependent on healthy marsh and wetlands existing somewhere.
If we don’t take action soon, we could lose much of the marsh we still have. The Louisiana Legislature recently unanimously approved a comprehensive plan to restore the wetlands and create stronger hurricane protections, while the recent passage of the RESTORE Act should give us funds to get started making this plan a reality.
Last week, Field & Stream and Outdoor Life magazines posted articles online about their experiences on the delta, including, "Louisiana Delta: The Biggest Habitat Catastrophe You’ve Never Heard Of." Meanwhile Field & Stream writes that “It was the hard work and relentless advocacy of sportsmen” that made the RESTORE Act a reality.
We need sportsmen across America to join us as we fight to reconnect the river to the wetlands and restore this great national treasure. We’re delighted to see two of America’s most influential outdoors magazines spreading the word.No Comments
By Cynthia Duet, Director of Governmental Relations, National Audubon Society
Louisiana’s recently passed 2012 Coastal Master Plan contains an ambitious mix of risk-reduction and restoration projects spread across the entire Louisiana coastal area. Such ambition does, however, come with a price — costing an estimated $50 billion over 50 years, and so the plan is also frank in its account of the uncertainties and complexities of funding and creating a sustainable coastal Louisiana ecosystem. To reverse generations of massive and ongoing land loss, encroaching sea level rise and a decade of natural and manmade disasters, the funding challenge must be met head on.
The state acknowledges the need to quickly begin the large-scale work laid out in the plan. At the same time, project implementation depends on funding from a myriad of sources. These projects will also be implemented by various actors — some projects by Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), others by local or federal partners. Progress will be tracked through the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Annual Plan, which will identify specific projects, schedules and funding streams.
So now that the plan is passed, does the funding exist to implement the plan?
In recent years, and in brighter economic times, the Louisiana Legislature authorized a generous allocation of state surplus dollars — a total of $790 million between 2007 and 2009 — to accelerate implementation of priority projects for the coast. Additionally, the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP), established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, provided nearly $500 million to the state of Louisiana and its coastal parishes, the bulk of which was obligated and spent on critical protection and restoration projects in fiscal years 2007-2010. These dollars, accompanied by the long-standing Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) dollars (approximately $80 million per year to which the state matches 15%), the Louisiana Coastal Area Program (LCA) dollars and related federal funds through the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA), are the foundation upon which the coastal program has been funded to date.
On the horizon are revenues from the sale of mineral leases and royalty revenue from oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico that have been dedicated to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Trust fund through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Securities Act of 2006 (GOMESA). Though funding from this program has trickled through in modest increments since 2007, larger revenue streams from these royalties will be available in 2017 when “Phase II” of that program begins. Estimates of funding for Louisiana from this source have ranged up to $500 million annually on the high end, but the true figures are nearly impossible to pin down because they are tied to new leasing and drilling activities in the gulf.
As the state continues to ramp up its coastal efforts, bringing more and larger projects to construction, more money is required in the short term to fill the gap between now and 2017, when the GOMESA funding is realized. Some significant recent commitments to funding have come in the form of post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill commitments:
- BP announced an historic Early Restoration Framework Agreement on April 21, 2011, committing an unprecedented $1 billion for early restoration projects as a jump-start for the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) process. Rather than waiting for up to a decade or more, the gulf states negotiated this down payment from BP to begin recovery and restoration of natural resources. The agreement allocated $100 million for projects in Louisiana, and a shared portion of $300 million to be allocated to states based on impacts.
- On July 6, 2012, the President signed into law the transportation funding bill which contains the RESTORE Act, a landmark piece of legislation that dedicates 80 percent of all Clean Water Act penalties and fines from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to projects in the gulf states for environmental and economic recovery. The settlement has yet to be reached that will ultimately determine the exact value of those dollars to be directed to impacted gulf states, but the range is somewhere between $5 and $21 billion.
For planning purposes, the Coastal Master Plan was crafted using reasonable budget projections and a conservative view of what is likely to be received by the state in the coming decades — a range of between $20 and $50 billion (in present value dollars) over the next 50 years. This range was further defined and annualized, and an estimated $400 million to $1 billion per year was the result.
The Coastal Master Plan emphasizes that funds are not guaranteed and that funding levels are based on the state’s best “educated guess.” Funds will not arrive at once but will be spaced over the next 50 years; and much of the expected funding is tied to CWPPRA (about $80 million per year, requiring a reauthorization in 2019), GOMESA (about $110 million per year after 2017), LCA (about $150 milllion per year), the RESTORE Act and NRDA.
In summary, insufficient funding has been the Achilles’ heel of coastal work for decades. Though this will remain the case for years to come, as the implementation of the large and ambitious 2012 Coastal Master Plan begins to unfold, the necessary elements are finally beginning to come together for a hopeful future. Through continued efforts by the State of Louisiana, its delegation leaders, the U.S. Congress and a bit of urging by our own NGO partners, we can all work together to make the Coastal Master Plan’s vision a reality.No Comments
This is the fourth post in our "The Next 50 Years" Coastal Master Plan series. Check back as we continue diving into the master plan and what it means for the people and environment of the Mississippi River Delta.
By Alisha A. Renfro, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, National Wildlife Federation
To formulate Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan, coastal authorities evaluated nearly 250 restoration projects that had been proposed in previous parish- and state-level restoration plans. This number was then narrowed down by setting a realistically achievable budget, modeling for future environmental conditions and understanding how the implementation of individual projects could help sustain or build land over the next 50 years. Projects included in the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Comprehensive Study were among those considered for inclusion in the master plan, and many of these projects – or similar versions of them – were included in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. By incorporating these projects in the long-term vision of restoration for coastal Louisiana, these projects will be better integrated with others in the master plan. Additionally, inclusion of these LCA projects shows the state’s commitment to their construction and implementation.
The LCA Program was authorized through the 2007 Water Resources Development Act and includes 15 near-term critical restoration projects. As part of the LCA Program, the state of Louisiana and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work together to plan and implement these 15 projects. To date, construction has not begun on any of these projects, and as they near the construction phase, the lack of federal funding in the immediate future threatens to delays them indefinitely. That is, until Congress passed the RESTORE Act in June. Signed into law just last week, the RESTORE Act will ensure that 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines BP and other responsible parties will pay as a result of the 2010 gulf oil spill are dedicated to environmental restoration in the gulf states. In Louisiana, this money will be used to help fund the restoration projects outlined in the master plan.
Of the 15 LCA projects, nine were included in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. But in many cases, the project selected and described in the master plan is a modified version of the original LCA project. This is a result of the analysis conducted in the planning process that indicated that modifications to the project would increase the land it built or maintained. However, it should be noted that the projects described in the master plan are still conceptual, as their exact size and location will be determined through further planning and design. Below is a list of the LCA projects and a brief description of the corresponding project included in the master plan.
The extensive analysis that went into formulating the master plan indicates that the capacity of several of the LCA sediment diversions may need to be scaled up in order to maximize the amount of land they can build and sustain. By including so many LCA projects in the plan, coastal authorities reaffirmed the importance of these critical projects to restoring the coastal Louisiana landscape. Moving away from smaller restoration projects toward larger ecosystem-scale projects will help restore the natural hydrology and mimic the processes that built the Mississippi River Delta, thus creating a more sustainable coastline for the people who call the region home.No Comments
By Amanda Moore and Happy Johnson, National Wildlife Federation
Yesterday (July 9), U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) kicked off a five-stop Louisiana coastal tour to celebrate the historic passage and signing into law of the RESTORE Act. Stops included Jean Lafitte, Thibodaux, Lafayette, Lake Charles and Bell City. Staff from the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign were on hand in Lafitte as the senior senator from Louisiana thanked the crowd for the time and energy spent achieving this momentous victory for our coast.
“This tremendous victory would never have been possible without the broad support of environmental, wildlife and business groups in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast,” said Senator Landrieu in a press statement.
The RESTORE Act, first introduced in July 2011 by Senators Landrieu and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), will dedicate 80 percent of penalties paid under the Clean Water Act to the gulf states for ecological and economic restoration. BP could face fines between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. In Louisiana, this funding will be critical for implementation of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, a 50-year, $50 billion restoration and protection plan for the state.
Thanks to Senator Landrieu for her leadership, and thanks to all of the legislators who voted to bring justice to the gulf.
Photos from the Laffite event can be seen on the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Facebook page.No Comments
By Meg Sutton, Environmental Defense Fund
Last week, scientists, engineers, community leaders, policymakers, business owners and other coastal interests gathered in New Orleans for the 2012 State of the Coast Conference. The event was organized by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) and Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) with the mission of providing a forum in which to learn about advances in coastal science and engineering and to ensure that this knowledge is applied to current and future coastal projects. To better inform project implementation, these science and technology topics cut across other themes including funding, policy and community resilience.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Preparing for a Changing Future.” Special attention was paid to the recently released 2012 Coastal Master Plan and the implications of climate change. These events and issues, however, are underpinned by past legacies and present realities. Conference organizers and participants acknowledged this by painting a multigenerational picture, starting with the beginning of Mississippi River flood control and navigation and extending to plans for coastal sustainability a century into the future. Organizers highlighted the vulnerable present state of the coast and stressed that if we hope to have a sustainable future for the coast, the time for action is now.
In the first conference plenary session, Craig Colten of Louisiana State University gave a historical briefing of Mississippi River management, beginning with the 1720 colonial mandate to construct levees to protect areas from flooding. He continued by describing the subsequent trajectory that was increasingly path-dependent on levee and outlet systems that lead to the strong economic growth and development of the area but also contributed to high land loss and an exceedingly vulnerable coast. In order to both regain land and reduce vulnerabilities, the major functioning of the levee and outlet system in New Orleans has to be addressed. The almost 300-year history of the New Orleans levee system is a legacy that has contributed to present land loss rates, and without reconciling this reality, it precludes a future sustainable coastline.
Nothing was more relevant to the conference’s conversations than the impending threat of tropical storm Debby. At the beginning of the conference, there were concerns that Debby may impact New Orleans. Because of this possible threat, Garrett Graves of the CPRA delivered the conference’s opening address in place of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who was unable to attend due to the possibility of an emergency evacuation of the city. While the skies proved clear throughout the conference, it highlighted the current coastal vulnerability of New Orleans.
Paul Harrison of Environmental Defense Fund summed up these colliding issues by commenting that we have a 21st century issue in front of us: How do we reduce storm vulnerability, and how do we rebuild land? More importantly, how do we do this while balancing community and economic needs? Dr. Susanne Moser, of Susanne Moser Research and Consulting, reminded attendees in her keynote address that the 2012 Coastal Master Plan is as much about protecting people as it is about saving wetlands.
In order to address these questions, experts in their respective fields gave over 100 key research presentations, three keynote speeches, 100 poster presentations and hosted two panel discussions over the course of the three-day conference. Major topic themes included relative sea level rise, innovative restoration approaches, ecosystem service benefits of wetlands, subsidence, sediment management, barrier islands, existing restoration programs, hydrology, coastal ecology and many others. Each presentation alluded to past events, present conditions and what the research means in the context of a sustainable future coastline in Louisiana.
To find out more about the 2012 State of the Coast conference, please visit www.stateofthecoast.org, where a summary of proceedings will be published shortly. The 2010 proceedings report can be found at the same address.No Comments