Archive for Army Corps of Engineers


Expert panel discusses diversions as a coastal restoration tool

January 17, 2014 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Army Corps of Engineers, Diversions, Meetings/Events, Restoration Projects, Science

By Alisha A. Renfro, Ph.D., National Wildlife Federation

Last week in Baton Rouge, The Water Institute of the Gulf hosted the inaugural meeting of the Expert Panel on Diversion Planning and Implementation. The panel – comprised of 12 experts in natural and social sciences, engineering and economics – was selected from more than 60 nominees from across the country. Panel members are all from outside Louisiana, in order to foster critical and constructive review of work being led by Louisiana-based experts. Under the direction of The Water Institute of the Gulf and meeting up to three times a year, this independent panel will provide technical review, input and guidance as the state moves forward and refines its plans for diverting fresh water and sediment from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers to build, maintain and sustain coastal wetlands. For this first meeting, the panel was asked to consider the most suitable approaches to addressing current or perceived uncertainties in the planning and design of sediment diversions.

The first day of this meeting was open to the public and included a series of presentations outlining the urgent need for restoration in coastal Louisiana as well as various perspectives on sediment diversions. Kyle Graham, Deputy Executive Director of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), summarized Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan. In his presentation, Graham pointed out that there was no single restoration project type that can address the state’s land-loss crisis in one fell swoop, but that a suite of restoration projects are needed, including barrier island restoration, marsh creation, oyster barrier reefs, shoreline protection, hydrologic restoration and sediment diversions. Barrier island restoration and marsh creation can mechanically create land in strategic locations, but sediment diversions convey sediment to not only build new land but also to maintain existing wetlands that would otherwise be lost.

2012-Master-Plan-Coastwide1

Brigadier General Duke DeLuca, Commander of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division, presented the Corps’ perspective on sediment diversions. DeLuca discussed some of the questions that the Corps would like to see answered as sediment diversions move from plan to implementation. Many of these outstanding questions should be directly addressed through the Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study, a joint project being conducted by the State of Louisiana and the Corps. The study will use historic and field data, along with models, to do an assessment of large-scale restoration features to address sustainability of the Mississippi River Delta.

Additional presenters included Jim Tripp from Environmental Defense Fund, Michael Massimi from the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, Dr. Ehab Mesehle from The Water Institute of the Gulf and Dr. Alaa Ali from South Florida Water Management District.

In a late afternoon panel, Mark Wingate and Martin Mayer of the Corps’ New Orleans District, John Ettinger of the Environmental Protection Agency and Ronnie Paille of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, discussed their federal agencies’ views on diversions. Afterwards, the public was given the opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns about coastal restoration directly to the panel.

The following day, panel members met in private to discuss the uncertainties discussed and the science that needs to be done to address these uncertainties. A report on that meeting will be given at a CPRA meeting in the coming months.

Bold solutions are needed to halt the rate of catastrophic land loss in coastal Louisiana. Every year, communities throughout the coast inch closer to disaster, becoming more and more exposed to the destructive forces of storm events. Infrastructure, which is vitally important to the economy of Louisiana and the nation, becomes more vulnerable, and important habitat for wildlife, fish and birds vanishes.

Limited by money and sediment resources, there is no one type of restoration project that is a cure-all solution. A suite of restoration projects that strengthen and sustain the landscape is necessary. Sediment diversions use the natural power of the river to build new land and help maintain the existing wetlands. To do nothing or to only implement the least challenging types of restoration projects would doom the resource-rich Louisiana coast.

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The Billion Dollar Question: Who pays for MRGO ecosystem restoration?

December 10, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation

Last Tuesday, the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority authorized the state attorney general to file suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to get the federal government to pick up 100 percent of the expense for the federal plan for ecosystem restoration of damage caused by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). Since 2008, there has been an ongoing dispute between the state and the Corps involving interpretation of Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) of 2007 legislation, in which Congress directed the Corps to develop a plan for restoration of the MRGO ecosystem at full federal expense.

The $3 billion plan, mandated for completion by May of 2008, was finally completed in 2012. Yet, there is still disagreement over what cost share Congress intended, leaving this critical federal restoration effort at a standstill. The state contends that construction is a 100 percent federal expense, while the Corps contends that the typical cost share on restoration projects, 65 percent federal and 35 percent state, applies. This billion dollar question will now be determined by a judge.

Degraded marsh at lower end of the Central Wetlands near the MRGO.

Degraded marsh at lower end of the Central Wetlands near the MRGO.

The MRGO Must Go Coalition, a group of 17 conservation and neighborhood organizations working since 2006 to see the MRGO closed and the ecosystem restored, has researched this cost share issue for several years. We believe that Congress intended  for the MRGO projects under WRDA to be at 100 percent federal cost for construction, responding to the catastrophic flooding of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish during Katrina and the devastating role the MRGO played in this event.

Given the extent and urgency of the restoration needs, however, we call on the state of Louisiana, the Corps and potentially other federal agencies to work together to identify all available funding sources and ensure restoration moves forward in a timely manner. All parties involved should be present to work, first and foremost, to ensure timely implementation of comprehensive MRGO ecosystem restoration, as mandated by Congress. We are painfully aware that, every day, the MRGO ecosystem further deteriorates and communities remain at risk.

We welcome this opportunity for the federal court to resolve the cost share dispute. But no matter how the ruling comes down, the bigger question remains: Where will the funds come from to pay for the $3 billion in restoration projects outlined in the MRGO ecosystem restoration plan? Billions of dollars will have to be appropriated by Congress. It is our job, as stakeholders in the resiliency and safety of the Greater New Orleans Area and as citizens who care about justice being served for the communities and ecosystem torn apart by the MRGO, to ensure that our leaders in Congress clearly understand the importance of this restoration effort and that they find the will to get it done. Learn more and take action at www.MRGOmustGO.org.

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Recap of Wednesday's Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study Technical Meeting

October 25, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Diversions, Meetings/Events, Restoration Projects, Science

By Alisha Renfro, Coastal Scientist, National Wildlife Federation

The Mississippi River is one of the most managed river systems in the world. However, that management has focused on navigation and flood control needs to the detriment of the economically and ecologically important coastal Louisiana landscape. This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) hosted a public meeting in New Orleans to present information and preliminary results of their joint effort on the Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study. This large-scale, long-term study is developing tools to evaluate different combinations of restoration projects in an effort to address the long-term sustainability of the Mississippi River and its delta while balancing the needs of navigation, flood protection and restoration.

The scope of the study extends from Vicksburg, Miss. south to the Bird’s Foot delta. The study is actually comprised of two coupled, but somewhat distinct, efforts. The hydrodynamic portion of the study will focus on characterizing the dynamics in the river and developing models that can be used to evaluate river-side changes due to proposed freshwater and sediment diversion projects. It will also inform location and design of these projects to maximize their effectiveness and minimize the potential for shoaling in the river’s navigation channel. The delta management part of the study will focus on the basin-side benefits and changes caused by these restoration projects. The delta management portion of the study has not yet begun. Currently, the state of Louisiana and the Army Corps are working to define the depth and breadth of that part of the study.

The afternoon session of the meeting focused on detailed technical presentations on the study. The different tasks of the Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study include a geomorphic assessment, data collection and an extensive modeling effort. The geomorphic assessment focuses on compiling historical river data, dredging records and satellite imagery to document the historical trends in the river. The data collection effort will compile existing data and conduct field work to fill in gaps in understanding of the water and sediment dynamics that currently exist in the river. The historical data and present data will be integrated into the modeling work to inform the models and to ensure that the models capture the dynamics of the river system. The modeling effort includes a suite of models that each has different strengths and weaknesses. These models will be used to forecast the large-scale, long-term and shorter-term regional changes expected in the river in both a future without river diversions and a future that includes different combinations of diversion projects.

The presentations from the technical meeting indicate that this collaborative state of Louisiana and Army Corps effort has moved forward significantly since it began. The geomorphic assessment has been completed and a final report on its results is expected by the end of this year. The data collection effort is ongoing, having captured the low discharge of the river last year and the higher flow discharge from this past spring. Many of the preliminary model simulations have begun, and the preliminary results presented at this meeting emphasized the dynamic nature of the Mississippi River system, where water discharge, sediment transport and deposition can not only vary greatly from year to year, but also from week to week. The preliminary results also point to the importance of appropriate size, location and operation of sediment diversions in order to maximize sediment conveyance into adjacent wetlands and to reduce potential riverside impacts.

The Mississippi River has been a key feature in the growth and development of the U.S. However, for more than 80 years, the management of the river has focused on balancing the needs of navigation and flood control. A shift away from that management scheme towards one that balances navigation, flood control and restoration is absolutely critical for the survival of the delta ecosystem and, ultimately, the communities and navigation industry that depend on the Mississippi River Delta. The Hydrodynamic and Delta Management study is poised to be the effort that changes the way we think about management of the river and how we build a more sustainable, holistic system for our future.

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City of New Orleans, National Wildlife Federation host coastal restoration public forum

March 14, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Army Corps of Engineers, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Meetings/Events, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)

By Amanda Moore, Greater New Orleans Program Manager, National Wildlife Federation

Ms. Banta spoke to a crowd of about 75 people, including neighborhood leaders, parish officials, landowners, fishermen, legislators, academia and non-profit leaders.

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.

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.

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.

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The People Have Spoken

October 1, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Congress, Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

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.

Aerial graphic of MRGO ecosystem restoration plan components. Source: U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

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.

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Statement: Army Corps Should Act Quickly to Restore MRGO Damage

September 27, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Media Resources, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

Contacts:
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.

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Conservation groups laud funding for restoration efforts from U.S. House

June 1, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Congress, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Media Resources, Restoration Projects

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.

Contacts:
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, guidrye@nwf.org
Kevin Chandler, National Audubon Society, 202.596.0960, kchandler@audubon.org

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Take action: Help protect Louisiana's coast

May 15, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Army Corps of Engineers, BP Oil Disaster, Diversions, Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Restoration Projects

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.

Action alerts:

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.

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Mardi Gras Pass: A new diversion on the Mississippi River springs to life

March 21, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2011 Mississippi River Flood, 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Army Corps of Engineers, Diversions, Science, Videos

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.

Feb. 2012 -- Mardi Gras Pass as it reached the Mississippi River, just prior to a complete cut into the river. Credit: LPBF

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.

March 2012 -- Mardi Gras Pass (Credit: LPBF)

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.

March 2012 -- Mardi Gras Pass (Credit: LPBF)

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). 

Additional resources:

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NGOs urge federal government to restore coast damaged by Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

March 15, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

(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.

Views of inundated areas in New Orleans following breaking of the levees surrounding the city as the result of Hurricane Katrina. 11 September 2005. View is of a section of Eastern New Orleans, to the west of Lake Forest Boulevard. I-10 runs horizontally through center of image. MRGO canal is seen to south in distance. Credit: NOAA

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.

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