Archive for Army Corps of Engineers
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.No Comments
By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation
On September 6, restoration along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) passed another important milestone with completion of the final public comment period for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ planning process. It’s a milestone worth honoring, because almost 49,000 people commented on the plan and the need to prioritize restoration of the area. These comments were collected through nonprofit organizations affiliated with the MRGO Must Go Coalition, and since last year, over 75,000 people have shared their voice of support for the Coalition’s recommendations for MRGO ecosystem restoration during the public comment process. That is, by far, a record for the Corps of Engineers New Orleans District and goes to show how important this restoration effort is for the Greater New Orleans area.
“The corps needs to listen to the will of the people and address the ecosystem damaged by the MRGO. It’s time for the corps to step up to their responsibility and move on this work,” said John Koeferl, member of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association in the Lower Ninth Ward.
Despite this loud demand for urgent and comprehensive restoration, the Corps of Engineers is considering a recommendation of no further action on the MRGO ecosystem restoration report, due to a dispute over who will pay for the projects. A formal decision is still being made on the recommendation by the Chief of Engineers and is expected this week.
Of course, the need for restoration transcends a policy dispute. The MRGO report, which is more than four years beyond its congressional deadline, contains the corps’ plan to restore a portion of more than 600,000 acres of coastal wetlands and waterways impacted by the MRGO shipping channel. The MRGO has been directly linked to intensifying the destruction of Hurricane Katrina by destroying the wetlands that once buffered the Greater New Orleans area from storm surge.
In addition to the Coalition’s recommendation that the Corps of Engineers move forward on plan implementation, other major recommendations were offered to the corps, including prioritizing the 19 projects listed in the corps’ report that are also addressed in Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan, as well as expeditiously moving forward the Violet Freshwater Diversion. The majority of marsh creation, marsh nourishment and swamp creation features depend on river reintroduction, and the Violet Diversion project will allow for salinity control, sediment delivery to the Central Wetlands area, and better adaptation to sea level rise.
To learn more about the MRGO Must Go Coalition and our recommendations, please visit www.MRGOmustGO.org.No Comments
Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation, 504-442-2702
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504-421-7348
For Immediate Release:
(September 26, 2012—New Orleans) The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its March decision on Army Corps liability for catastrophic flood damage related to the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) during Hurricane Katrina, giving the Army Corps immunity under the discretionary-function exception of the Federal Tort Claims Act. Still, the Court acknowledged the MRGO “greatly aggravated the storm’s effects on the city” and the Corps “abused its discretion.”
“MRGO operation followed a multi-decadal pattern of failed policy and inadequate execution, which blithely ignored the egregious wetland loss and ominous threat the MRGO posed to St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans,” said Dr. John Lopez, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. “Due to the Corps’ failure to correct the issue, the MRGO destroyed communities and cost lives.”
Today, the MRGO damage remains unmitigated. Over 600,000 acres of coastal habitat were impacted by the MRGO, including tens of thousands of acres of protective wetlands that surround the Greater New Orleans area. Despite a call to action by Congress in 2006, an Army Corps plan for environmental restoration along the MRGO is still incomplete and facing a recommendation of “no further action” by the Corps due to a policy dispute over who will pay for the restoration projects.
“The stakes are too high for this to end here. The government must do what is right and fix the damage caused by the MRGO before the next catastrophe,” said Amanda Moore, greater New Orleans program manager for National Wildlife Federation.
This statement is supported by National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club, Levees.org, American Rivers and Global Green.No Comments
Federal funds will support critical restoration construction projects, jobs in Louisiana
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Washington, D.C. — June 1, 2012) Today, local and national conservation groups applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for approving $10 million in new funding for critical Louisiana coastal restoration projects.
Passed as an amendment to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, the measure was sponsored by Louisiana Representatives Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and directs $10 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction account for the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) program. This funding allows the Corps of Engineers to begin construction on federally approved restoration projects that will restore and rebuild Louisiana wetlands and barrier islands. In April, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $16.8 million for LCA ecosystem restoration projects. This funding supports President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request for coastal restoration projects.
“This funding is an important step in breaking ground on federally approved projects that will restore critical wetlands around the Mississippi River Delta and protect Louisiana’s coastal infrastructure and natural resources,” said the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation in a joint statement. "Thanks to the efforts of Representatives Scalise and Richmond, these funds will allow Louisiana to move forward on these projects that are so necessary to the long-term viability of our coastal communities.”
Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of wetlands, an area roughly the size of the state of Delaware. The decline of the Mississippi River Delta’s wetlands has dramatically weakened protection from hurricanes by wiping out much of the natural buffer against storm surge and other disasters. The loss of wetlands also threatens:
- One of our nation’s most important fisheries
- One of our nation’s most significant port complexes and navigation systems
- Wildlife, including tens of millions of migratory birds and waterfowl
- Domestic energy production and processing
- Communities all along the central Gulf Coast
The federal funding was provided in the House’s version of the FY13 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.
More restoration projects like the ones funded through this budget request would be possible with passage of the RESTORE Act. The legislation would dedicate 80 percent of oil spill penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 oil spill towards gulf restoration. The RESTORE Act has received strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and is currently under consideration as part of conference committee negotiations of the House and Senate transportation funding bills.
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, email@example.com
Kevin Chandler, National Audubon Society, 202.596.0960, firstname.lastname@example.org
By Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund
The Myrtle Grove sediment diversion is a linchpin of Louisiana's groundbreaking plan to restore the coast and repair damage inflicted by the BP oil disaster. However, the State and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are considering permits for the construction of a massive coal export terminal right next to this critical restoration project. Allowing these permits to proceed could stop the Myrtle Grove project in its tracks.
RAM Terminal, LLC has recently applied for permission to locate a coal export facility immediately adjacent to the location of the Myrtle Grove sediment diversion. The proposed facility will likely have a significant impact on the water and sediment flow in the river — and would therefore impact the Myrtle Grove sediment diversion’s ability to restore the surrounding wetlands and marshes.
For a state that has lost nearly 2,000 square miles of wetlands and barrier islands, Myrtle Grove represents one of the best opportunities to build and sustain our coast. By harnessing the river’s water and sediment, Myrtle Grove can sustain coastal communities and ecosystems for decades to come. Allowing the RAM coal export facility to proceed without demonstrating that it will not have a negative effect on Myrtle Grove would set a dangerous precedent. As the Coastal Master Plan moves through the State Legislature, Louisiana and the Army Corps must make restoration a top priority.
The public has been invited to comment on the project, but the deadline is close of business today!
Louisiana residents: Please take action and tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and State of Louisiana to demand proof that this coal export facility will not interfere with plans to restore our coast.
Environmental Defense Fund: Take Action: Put Louisiana's Coast over Big Coal
National Wildlife Federation: Defend Habitat Restoration for Brown Pelicans
Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost almost 2,000 square miles of coastal wetlands and barrier islands. Not only are these vital for species such as the brown pelican, they provide critical hurricane protections for Louisiana’s coastal residents. Louisiana's 2012 Coastal Master Plan estimates that restoration projects like the one at Myrtle Grove will create as many as 800 square miles of new healthy coastal habitats for pelicans and other wildlife over the next 50 years.
Take action and tell the State of Louisiana and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that restoring the coast is a national priority and should not be blocked due to a new coal facility.
By John Lopez, Ph.D., Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
The Bohemia Spillway, located along the east bank of the Mississippi River two miles south of Pointe a la Hache, La., is a rare opportunity to observe the natural processes and potential benefits of the Mississippi River flow into the Louisiana wetlands. Because there is no artificial river levee to obstruct flow during high water, the river has been flowing into the adjacent wetlands for 85 years. In 2011, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF) conducted a hydrologic study of how much water enters the spillway and where it flows during floods. It was over the course of this work that LPBF researchers made an unexpected discovery: a new channel was being cut by the flowing water from the Mississippi River.
As the 2011 flood waned, we began noticing this new channel, and in July, the channel made a dramatic breach into the nearby roadway. On Mardi Gras Day 2012 (Feb. 21), scientists noted that the channel had reached the bank of the Mississippi River and shortly after, a complete breach into the river occurred. With this milestone, the channel is now an extension of the Mississippi River that helps distribute the river flow through the new distributary channel.
At this time, the distributary flow through the newly-dubbed “Mardi Gras Pass” is small, estimated to be less than 1% of the river’s peak discharge (5,000 to 10,000 cubic feet per second). The channel is 30 to 40 feet wide near the river but deep enough to capture river flow continuously even under very low water. This new diversion was not manmade – it was the result of natural river forces seeking a shorter outlet to the sea.
It can be expected that Mardi Gras Pass will expand over time. The rate of enlargement is of great interest because this process has not been observed in modern times, and the concern is that the diversion may become too large. However, enlargement of the pass may be desirable, because just one mile away, the new draft Louisiana Coastal Master Plan recommends a large diversion of about 4% of the river’s peak flow (50,000 cubic feet per second). This new diversion is estimated to cost $220 million, so LPBF is encouraging the state and Army Corps of Engineers to consider Mardi Gras Pass as an alternative, since it may provide the same wetland benefits for a much smaller cost and much sooner than a constructed diversion.
Another exciting aspect of Mardi Gras Pass is the rapid emergence of the riverine ecology. When the channel was just a few weeks old, schools of fish were observed migrating up current toward the river. These pogy fish were feasting on the plant detritus being washed into the pass from the river. The influx of fish to the area attracted river otters, which have been commonly observed feeding in the pass. Additionally, beaver, heron and other critters have begun taking advantage of the bounty created by the river flow in Mardi Gras Pass.
Support for this research is provided by The McKnight Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, The Walton Family Foundation, Surdna and The National Audubon Society. To learn more about LPBF and the Bohemia Spillway, please visit SaveOurLake.org (go to Coastal > Technical Reports > Bohemia Spillway Documentation).
- Video: Bohemia Rising: Exploring the Mississippi Delta in South Louisiana, (Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation).
- Resiliency of the Bohemia Spillway and the Evolution of Mardi Gras Pass, Southeast Louisiana, (Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation).
(March 7, 2012 — New Orleans) On March 2, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the November 2009 landmark decision that found the Army Corps liable for catastrophic flooding in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish during Hurricane Katrina due to the grossly negligent management of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). In 2009, Judge Stanwood Duval ruled that the dangerous condition of the shipping channel was clearly acknowledged by the Corps for decades, but the Corps chose not to take a course of action to remedy the ongoing destruction and degradation of the protective wetlands. The MRGO impacted over 700,000 acres of coastal wetlands and waterways. These wetlands once buffered the Greater New Orleans area from storm surge.
This second ruling reaffirms the direct linkage of the MRGO to the deadly destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Urgent restitution for all impacted by Corps negligence and restoration of the MRGO ecosystem is imperative. Still, the federal government is expected to continue to appeal, further delaying resolution.
“Nearly seven years have passed since Hurricane Katrina. It’s high time for the federal government to step-up to the plate by compensating those affected and by funding MRGO restoration,” said Dr. John Lopez of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.
Although the closure of the shipping channel was long-advocated by environmental and community groups, and even though the funneling effect of the MRGO was predicted by storm surge researchers, it took the drowning of entire communities to achieve congressional action for MRGO closure and restoration planning.
Restoration planning is ongoing. Both the Corps’ draft MRGO ecosystem restoration plan and the State of Louisiana’s draft 2012 Coastal Master Plan call for upwards of $5 billion in restoration projects in the area impacted by the channel. The need for funding prevents implementation of this immensely important restoration effort. Settling this case could provide a major source of those funds.
“As an advocate for both the environment and reduction of flood risk, I believe the Court of Appeals decision will push government engineers to look long and hard at how other channels similar to the MRGO along the Gulf Coast increase risk and damage the environment. More importantly, we need to fix them before the next catastrophe,” said Dr.Paul Kemp, Vice President at National Audubon Society and a member of Team Louisiana.
Statement supported by: American Rivers, CAWIC, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Global Green-USA, Gulf Restoration Network, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Levees.org, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Lower Ninth Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, MQVN Community Development Corporation, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club – Delta Chapter, Tierra Resources, LLC, and St. Bernard Parish Government.No Comments
By Alisha Renfro, Ph.D., National Wildlife Federation
Last month, the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Science & Technology (S&T) Science Board held their final meeting on November 15th in Baton Rouge. The S&T program was envisioned to support the LCA Ecosystem Restoration Plan by providing an external science review board; providing analytical tools and technology needed to reduce gaps in scientific knowledge; and to better integrate scientific knowledge at the local, state, and federal levels.
The S&T program closed due to a budget dispute between the State of Louisiana and the Army Corps of Engineers. This final meeting served as a wrap up of the program with presentations on new research that had been conducted and status updates on reports on the ecology of diversions and a guidance document for river diversions.
The meeting began with Dr. Mead Allison presenting his group’s work on determining the sediment and water budget of the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers. For the future and success of the LCA restoration plan, it is critical to know how much sand is transported through the lower Mississippi River, where it is deposited and how much of it is lost to the Gulf. Preliminary discussion of the research results indicates that much of the sand that enters the lower Mississippi River is stored in the river channel or as overbank deposit. This work also indicates that greater sediment transport in the river is, in general, tied closely to high river discharge, but that direct monitoring work is needed to fine tune this relationship and account for other processes that increase sediment in the river at lower discharges. These results suggest that river diversion projects would be more effective when located higher on the river and should be operated when sediment transport in the river is at its highest.
The afternoon meeting focused on two highly anticipated reports—one of which will focus on developing a river diversion guidance document for managers and another on the ecology of diversions. The diversions ecology report was developed to explore information about river diversions, scientific uncertainties, scientific need to reduce uncertainties and maximize diversion effectiveness and operation recommendations for existing freshwater diversions to maximize their potential. The goal of the guidance document is to provide a rational basis for design, size, location and key project parameters as well as improving the methodology of diversion project design, implementation, and operation. Much of this work is still under review but should be released to the public in the near future.
Restoration of coastal Louisiana requires bold, ecosystem-scale restoration that is based on the best science available. Even with the dissolution of the S&T program, this pursuit of science-based restoration solutions must continue with groups like the Mississippi River Delta Coalition’s Science and Engineering Special Team (SEST) taking the lead. This group is comprised of scientists from various disciplines and throughout the U.S. that come together to try and answer the big questions in the pathway forward to restoring Louisiana’s coast.No Comments
Conservation groups say partnership between Louisiana, Corps essential for healthy environment, communities, industries, national economy
(Baton Rouge–August 24, 2011) Conservation groups today expressed support for an agreement between Louisiana and federal officials to conduct an investigation focusing on the dynamic nature of the Lower Mississippi River and the interplay between restoration, navigation and flood control. Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) will collaborate on the analysis, officially called the Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study.
“Today’s agreement between CPRA and the Corps is a significant step toward a fully integrated approach to river management based on the best available science,” said a joint statement by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy. “The Mississippi River is a dynamic and changing system. We have to understand those changes in order to implement effective solutions for restoration, flood control and navigation, which are all deeply interconnected.”
“Science tells us that the river is changing, and that the continued collapse of Louisiana’s wetlands will likely threaten our existing flood protection and navigation systems,” the groups continued. “This partnership between the CPRA and the Corps is necessary to meet the challenges associated with managing the Mississippi River for the multiple benefits it provides to the state and the nation.”
Steven Peyronnin, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.413.6924, email@example.com
Sean Crowley, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.550-6524, firstname.lastname@example.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, email@example.com
Chris Macaluso, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, 225.344.6707, firstname.lastname@example.org
David J. Ringer, National Audubon Society, 601.642.7058, email@example.com
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Gautreaux, The Nature Conservancy, 225.788.4525, email@example.com
By Craig Guillot, National Wildlife Federation
Read this story in its entirety on NWF.org.
(NWF) – As the rising waters of the Mississippi River continue to impact communities along its banks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and flood control managers are desperately trying to mitigate the impacts. In Louisiana, the solution has been to open spillways that relieve pressure on the levees and divert some of the river's waters to the Gulf of Mexico.
The human consequences of this flood will be catastrophic and long-lasting. Massive flooding has already hit parts of Tennessee and Mississippi and tens of thousands more homes are at risk of flooding. New Orleans is carefully monitoring the rising waters.
But experts say there's a valuable lesson to be learned in this historic event: sediment deposits from floods like these could actually help build land along Louisiana's rapidly eroding coastline. While the opening of spillways and diversions may help prevent further flooding, experts say the river could be put to even greater use to help both people and natural systems.
"Managing the Mississippi: Part 1" produced by Jared Serigné
You can continue reading this story here in the National Wildlife Federation Media Center.No Comments