Archive for 2012 Coastal Master Plan
From CWPPRA Newsflash:
What are viable strategies for addressing our coastal erosion in light of sea level rise, subsidence, hurricanes and oil spills?
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill dumped nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, with Louisiana's coast receiving the greatest percentage of direct ecological damage. Three years later, a civil trial is taking place to determine the financial liability of BP and three other companies for the impact to the five Gulf states.
Eighty percent of penalties paid by the responsible parties will go toward Gulf Coast restoration. But will it be money well-spent? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently predicted that Louisiana's southeastern coast is likely to be under at least 4.3 feet of water by the end of the century. What does that mean for projects in Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast? What are viable strategies for addressing the state's coastal erosion in light of sea level rise, subsidence, hurricanes and oil spills? Louisiana Public Square explores these issues and more on "Louisiana Coastal Concerns: BP and Beyond" Wednesday, April 24th at 7 p.m. CT on LPB HD, and at 9 p.m. on WLAE-TV in New Orleans.
This week, the La. Public Broadcasting TV program Louisiana Public Square focuses on "Coastal Concerns: BP and Beyond." The program will air statewide on LPB stations this Wednesday at 7 p.m. statewide, and at 9 p.m. on WLAE-TV in New Orleans.
The panelists are:
- Windell Curole, Director, South Lafourche Levee District
- Christopher D'Elia, Ph. D., Dean, LSU School of the Coast and Environment
- Garrett Graves, Chair of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
- Mark Schleifstein, environmental reporter for The Times-Picayune
Kirby Goidel, Director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, will moderate. Beth Courtney, LPB president, will host.
Study demonstrates importance of sediment diversions for building land in the Mississippi River DeltaMarch 27, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Diversions, Restoration Projects, Science
By Alisha A. Renfro, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, National Wildlife Federation
Last week, an independent scientific panel comprised of prominent scientists from throughout the U.S. released a report, “Mississippi River Freshwater Diversions in Southern Louisiana: Effects of Wetland Vegetation, Soils, and Elevation,” which examines some of the ecological effects of freshwater river diversions. The panel concluded that there is little evidence suggesting that the existing freshwater diversions in Louisiana have appreciably reversed the rate of land loss in the region, and that to reverse the land loss trend, significant inputs of sediment are needed. While most of the existing diversions in Louisiana were built to move fresh water only, many of the diversions included in Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan focus on sediment capture and conveyance into coastal wetlands.
Freshwater diversions affect basins by reducing salinities. Extensive dredging of canals throughout the Mississippi River Delta’s wetlands has allowed for salt water from the gulf to intrude into wetlands adapted to lower salinity conditions, resulting in large areas of these wetlands dying and being converted to open water. Wetland vegetation is affected directly by the salinity of the water in wetland soil. High salt concentrations in the soil can affect vegetation by reducing the overall rate of photosynthesis, decreasing nutrient uptake and stunting growth rates. Consequently, the introduction of fresh water into wetland communities damaged by saltwater intrusion is vital in any restoration effort.
Freshwater diversions also increase the amount of nutrients introduced into the receiving basin. While increases in nutrient availability to wetland vegetation would presumably stimulate growth, scientific information collected in Louisiana marsh communities have exhibited varying results depending on plant species, nutrient concentrations and the abundance of different types of nutrients. Increasing the amount of nutrients may also alter the composition of the plant community, as some species of plants have a competitive advantage when it comes to nutrient uptake and growth.
River diversions can also have an influence on wetland elevation. In order for wetlands to persist over time, processes that increase the surface elevation of the wetlands must be equal to factors that increase the threat of submergence (e.g. sea level rise, storms). Diversions have the potential to promote an increase in the elevation of a wetland by adding mineral sediment to the surface and stimulating plant growth both above and below ground. However, the surface elevation of a wetland could decrease as nutrients become less scarce, as the abundance of vegetation roots decline and as an increase in the breakdown of belowground organic material by bacteria takes place. More scientific studies are needed to enhance our understanding of the relationship between marsh response and river input in order to better predict the net effect that sediment and freshwater diversions may have on different marsh types.
This scientific panel found that any freshwater diversion that does not transport a substantial sediment load is unlikely to reverse the current trend of wetland loss in Louisiana. The 2012 Coastal Master Plan recognizes and addresses this reality by focusing on large-scale diversions that would be capable of transporting significant amounts of river sediment into the nearby wetlands. In addition to shifting the focus of diversions from fresh water to sediment, the panel determined that a formal adaptive management scheme is needed for existing and planned diversions where the goals of the project are clear, the pre-diversion conditions of the affected area are well characterized, monitoring in the outfall area is done to measure the progress of the project in relation to its goals and a process exists to adjust the operation of the structure to increase the likelihood those goals are reached.
- Fact sheet: "Pulsed" land-building sediment diversions
- Mississippi River Freshwater Diversions in Southern Louisiana: Effects of Wetland Vegetation, Soils, and Elevation (Technical Panel from the Workshop on Response of Louisiana Marsh Soils and Vegetation to Diversions)
By Amanda Moore, Greater New Orleans Program Manager, National Wildlife Federation
Last Thursday evening, the City of New Orleans hosted their 2nd in a series of coastal restoration public forums. Community members came to hear Drue Banta, Counsel to the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, talk about ways to advance coastal restoration in Louisiana through use of BP oil disaster funds. Ms. Banta spoke to a crowd of about 75 people, including neighborhood leaders, parish officials, landowners, fishermen, legislators, academia and non-profit leaders. The forum explored topics such as the difference between the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and the Clean Water Act, the process through which those dollars will be coming to Louisiana, and who is responsible for planning and implementation of projects with each source of funding.
Since July 2012, the coastal restoration forums, held in partnership with National Wildlife Federation, have brought New Orleans community members face to face and in direct dialogue with coastal decision-makers from the Army Corps of Engineers, the governor’s office, and staff from U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu’s office. As coastal restoration efforts continue to build momentum, National Wildlife Federation and the City of New Orleans will continue to provide these opportunities for public engagement, in an effort to inform not only the community about the latest developments, but also to inform officials closely tied to the restoration process about community concerns and interests. This communication is critical for strong project planning and a healthy coast.
Charles Allen, Director and Advisor for Coastal and Environmental Affairs with the City of New Orleans, explains the purpose of the public outreach effort. “Our goal is to keep the people in the New Orleans area informed and engaged about the many complexities of coastal restoration and the urgency of advancing the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan to protect our communities for generations to come. There is a great promise that new funding sources will eventually start to flow into our state to address this need. As a result, we feel our community should be kept informed so they can further shape the state’s coastal restoration agenda as it evolves and moves forward.”
Check back for information on future coastal restoration public forums.1 Comment
This story was originally posted on the Coalition the Restore Coastal Louisiana's Coastal Currents blog.
By Scott Madere, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
Our coastal wetlands have immeasurable worth to Louisiana in terms of culture. Our history, art, celebrations, recreational opportunities and so much more are tied to the muddy waters and vast green expanse of our swamps, forests and coastal marsh. Our love for our land defines us as a people, and we often cite it to those who are not from here as the main reason why Louisiana’s coast is worth saving. It seems natural for us to talk about the coast this way, but to those outside of Louisiana it may be a little hard to understand. That’s why it’s also valuable to be able to talk about Louisiana’s worth in another way: raw dollars, the sheer economic value that the Mississippi River Delta provides to the nation.
Understanding the massive dollar value of what Louisiana provides to the country helps us make the case to our fellow Americans that Louisiana is worth the resources sent here to restore our wetlands. In a political environment where budgets are tight and decisions are made based on investment return, this could potentially be Louisiana’s best angle toward building more national support for restoration.
So let’s explore it. The Mississippi River Delta Science and Engineering Special Team (SEST), made up of 22 of our nation’s best coastal scientists and engineers, published a report in 2012: “Answering 10 Fundamental Questions About the Mississippi River Delta.” Within the report, SEST compiled some convincing data about the economic value of Louisiana’s coast from a number of sources. Here are some of the highlights:
- Mississippi River Delta ecosystems provide economically valuable services to the people of our state such as storm protection, fresh water, food, habitat, waste treatment and other benefits. These annual benefits alone are worth up to $47 billion per year to our citizens. With these annual benefits taken into consideration, the present value of the Delta’s ecosystem services could range as high as $1.3 trillion.
- Between 80 and 90 percent of Louisiana’s economy, seafood production and quality of life is linked to coastal ecosystem goods and services.
- Commercial fisheries have a yearly impact of $2.85 billion.
- Recreational fishing generates $1.7 billion annually.
- Economic activity linked to wildlife (hunting, wildlife watching, trapping, etc.) exceeds $1.6 billion each year.
- Tourism generates as much as $10 billion every year for Louisiana.
- The deepwater ports along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans collectively form the largest tonnage port in the Western Hemisphere. Waterborne commerce in this corridor generates $35 billion annually and as many as 300,000 jobs.
And we haven’t even mentioned oil and gas yet.
According to the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association:
- Our state is the nation’s number one producer of crude oil and the number two producer of natural gas among the 50 states.
- Approximately 80 percent of the nation’s offshore oil and gas resources come from or through Louisiana. That equates to 30 percent of the nation’s energy consumption.
- The Louisiana oil and gas industry exceeds $70 billion of economic impact annually.
After reviewing this very short list of economic benefit provided to us by the coast, it is easy to see two undeniable facts.
First, Louisiana’s coast is an economic engine that needs to be protected. In a time when so much national focus is set on employment numbers, Louisiana contributes positively by providing hundreds of thousands of jobs related to the coast. Even more jobs can be provided by the coastal restoration process itself.
Secondly, placing a national priority on Louisiana coastal restoration is a wise move. The 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan sets a cost of $50 billion to fund its 50-year coordinated coastal restoration strategy. When compared to the potential economic output of Louisiana for the next 50 years, that $50 billion price tag actually seems small.
In the years ahead, Louisiana’s citizens will have to continue to make the case, both on Capitol Hill and in Baton Rouge, that coastal restoration is a top national priority. The numbers do add up when it comes to supporting that claim, and our leaders and citizens should feel confident in taking that position when seeking support from others around the country.No Comments
SMART Solutions for Restoration: The Second Summit on Coastal Restoration in Lafourche and Terrebonne ParishesDecember 5, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Meetings/Events, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act
By Maura Wood, National Wildlife Federation
On Oct. 31, 2012, Garret Graves, director of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), spoke at the Second Summit on Coastal Restoration in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes held at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. At the time, summit attendees were unaware of the proposed settlement on criminal penalties against BP for oil spill damages that would designate a sizable portion of these funds over the next five years to river diversions and barrier islands to restore Louisiana’s coastal habitats. Now, with a tangible and substantial amount pending only approval by the judge, his comments are even more relevant.
Mr. Graves began by detailing progress made over the last five years, including establishment of the CPRA as a policy and implementation arm with the authority to consolidate and integrate coastal protection and restoration functions which were formerly scattered throughout state government. He stressed resiliency and a comprehensive approach to restoration as central themes of CPRA. Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan, informed by these themes, created a common set of principles while also recognizing limitations in funding and resources to accomplish restoration and protection. With that in mind, he detailed five next steps to strengthen the state’s ability to plan and build projects.
First, Graves spoke of the importance of continuing to integrate the expertise and capability of agencies and entities at the federal, regional, state and parish level. Second, he detailed the need to improve the predictability of funding. Gulf of Mexico Energy Securities Act (GOMESA), the RESTORE Act, gulf oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) funding, and BP civil penalties are all potential sources, although how much might be available and when remains a murky issue.
Third, Graves recommended a better integration of levee districts. The effort to combine and streamline began with the consolidation of several levee districts in the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina. Graves reminded participants that many levee districts were established in the '40s, '50s and '60s, and their boundaries are frequently political. Now, he said, would be a good time to consider hydrologic boundaries as opposed to geopolitical ones.
Next, Graves cited the utter emergency of the current rate of land loss and called for reform in the way the Army Corps of Engineers pursues projects. While praising the corps in some areas, he asserted the need to speed progress exponentially and called for an end to obstacles and delays. Finally, Graves detailed the need to establish a network of pipelines to deliver sediment to areas across the coast that are currently sediment starved. Although river diversions will deliver the most bang for the buck, he said, we must also get sediment in to some areas as quickly as possible.
Graves may not have known that a BP criminal settlement would dedicate $1.2 billion over the next five years to restore barrier islands and implement river diversion projects – significant progress toward a renewed and self-renewing coast. Yet his major next steps – integrating the capability and expertise of federal agencies, levee districts, as well as the corps; and changing positions and practices that impair rapid action on restoration – are all the more important now that money is available.
The second summit for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on coastal restoration in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes was sponsored by Restore or Retreat and the National Wildlife Federation. The event brought together NGO representatives who have considered restoration goals in these parishes and are committed to specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART) actions to advance those goals.No Comments
By Alisha A. Renfro, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, National Wildlife Federation
This year, drought conditions throughout most of the country have left the Mississippi River flowing at a near all-time low. This is a stark comparison to 2011, when heavy rains and a large snowmelt in the spring sent record levels of water and sediment flowing down the river. At the Old River Control Structure north of Baton Rouge, the flow of the river is split, with 70 percent continuing down the Mississippi to the Bird’s Foot delta, and the remaining 30 percent flowing down the Atchafalaya River. During the 2011 flood, the flood protection levees and the opening of the Morganza and Bonnet Carré spillways successfully shunted water safely past the high population centers in the region. However, this event was a missed opportunity to capitalize on the influx of fresh water and sediment and to reconnect the river with sediment-starved wetlands of Louisiana.
In a recent study published in Nature Geoscience, research led by Federico Falcini, Ph.D. examined the link between the historic 2011 river flood and sediment accumulation in nearby wetlands. Their analysis suggested that the natural dynamics of the coastal system coupled with man-made alterations to the river system influenced the amount of sediment deposited in the wetlands. This work shows that under river flood conditions, diverting the flow of the river into shallow basins adjacent to the river could contribute significantly to sediment deposition in the wetlands and therefore contribute to wetland growth.
In the study, the sediment plumes of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers were tracked using satellite imagery from the 2011 flood event to understand where the sediment went once it exited these rivers. The Mississippi’s sediment plume exited the river in focused jets of sediment-laden water due to the confinement of much of the river’s flow between artificial levees. This plume moved past the coastal current and into the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico, limiting the amount of sediment that could be deposited in the near-shore area and adjacent wetlands. In contrast, the Atchafalaya’s sediment plume exited the river and moved along a broad, near-shore area, mixing with waters from the Gulf of Mexico and creating conditions that were likely to favor sediment deposition.
A comparison of sediment accumulation during the 2011 flood in nearby marshes shows a trend that corresponds to the difference in behavior of the two river plumes. Sediment accumulation was highest at marsh sites near the Atchafalaya River, which supports the idea that its sediment plume spreading out over a large area in relatively shallow water, promoting increased sedimentation in the region. Sediment accumulation in wetlands near the mouth of the Mississippi River was substantial, but significantly lower than near the Atchafalaya. While the Mississippi River carried a larger sediment load during the 2011 flood event, much of the sediment was lost to the deeper waters of the gulf.
Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan identifies several sediment diversions that are key to restoring the important coastal Louisiana landscape. The success of these diversions will depend on a variety of factors, including location and operation. However, this new research confirms that fine sediments introduced into shallow water can substantially contribute to sediment accumulation in wetlands. In order to restore the rapidly deteriorating wetlands of coastal Louisiana, it is critical to reintroduce the sediment that once built this productive region.2 Comments
By Whit Remer, Policy Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund
Today, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident announced two additional early NRDA restoration projects. The NRDA Trustees include representatives from the five Gulf Coast states and four federal agencies who are charged with assessing damage to natural resources, such as marshes, sea grasses, birds, and marine mammals, caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In April 2012, the Deepwater Horizon NRDA Trustees finalized the first phase of early NRDA projects, which included eight restoration projects spread across four gulf states and carried a price tag of $57 million.
The second round early NRDA projects focus on avian (bird) and turtle habitat restoration and are located in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. The projects are estimated to cost almost $9 million, which will be split nearly equally between the avian and turtle projects. The avian nesting project focuses on habitat protection in Florida and on Department of Interior lands in Alabama and Mississippi. Fencing, predator controls and stewardship signs will be posted around the nesting areas to prevent disturbance. The turtle projects will focus on nesting habitats for loggerhead sea turtles in Florida and state lands in Alabama. Those projects will attempt to reduce artificial lighting impacts on nesting habits of loggerhead sea turtles.
Both Phase I and Phase II NRDA projects are being negotiated and funded in accordance with the $1 billion Early Framework Agreement signed by the NRDA Trustees and BP in April of 2011. The Framework Agreement was largely seen as a positive step toward restoring the gulf when it was signed, but money has been slow to flow from under the agreement.
Moving forward, we encourage the Trustees to advance projects that are robust and comprehensive. The Mississippi River Delta is a vast and rich ecosystem that suffered discernible, adverse impacts as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The NRDA process presents a real opportunity for the Trustees and BP to make the gulf right again. Future NRDA phases should include projects that address the damaged ecosystem in the Mississippi River Delta. Thankfully, officials in Louisiana have identified a list of priority projects based on the recently passed 2012 Coastal Master Plan. We encourage the Trustees and BP to move swiftly to advance these important ecosystem restoration projects.No Comments
By Happy Johnson, National Wildlife Federation
Louisiana is facing a coastal crisis. We lose one football field of wetlands every hour. 1,900 square miles of land has been lost already since the 1930s, and another 1,800 square miles are expected to be lost within the next 50 years unless we implement significant coastal restoration projects. Coastal land loss has strong, direct impacts on all communities, especially Black and Vietnamese fishing populations in the Mississippi River Delta. Without urgent restoration of Louisiana’s dying wetlands, we stand to lose these vital groups, cultures and economies.
Many fishermen who saw their families, homes and boats dismantled by Hurricane Katrina experienced compounded economic damage during the BP oil disaster. As a result, communities of color making a living in the fishing industry are dramatically shrinking.
The before-mentioned disasters also present a remarkable opportunity to implement policy and project solutions that mitigate land loss, reduce carbon emissions and tackle relative sea level rise. Examples of those solutions include Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan and the RESTORE Act, both of which harness science and community capacity to engineer a more resilient Gulf Coast.
On the third Tuesdays of June, July and August, the New Orleans branch of the National Wildlife Federation hosted a three-part series of informal residential gatherings titled “Community Conversations on Coastal Restoration” at the New Orleans Healing Center.
Representatives from neighborhood associations, community development organizations, curious residents, students and vocal coastal leaders attended these events to discuss the BP oil spill impacts, the RESTORE Act, the Coastal Master Plan and the Louisiana First Hiring Act. The overarching mission of this series was to help enhance coastal competency in urban communities.
State and federal investments in southeast Louisiana provide opportunities to build community strength against future catastrophes. How do we diversity grassroots and local residential interest and then turn that interest into advocacy? I think it begins with building trust, expanding opportunities and having in-depth conversations.
The emerging coastal restoration economy provides significant avenues for job growth, educational training and workforce development. Now is the time for New Orleans as a whole to prepare for the future.No Comments
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