Archive for Community Resiliency


The new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

April 27, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Community Resiliency, Federal Policy

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

This is part one of a two-part series about the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. Check back tomorrow for part two.

The view from aerial tour of Hurricane Sandy damage of New Jersey's barrier beaches, Nov. 18, 2012.

The view from aerial tour of Hurricane Sandy damage of New Jersey's barrier beaches, Nov. 18, 2012.

There has been a lot of misinformation circulating about the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard established in Executive Order (EO) 13690. In this two-part series, we will shed light on the new standard as well as ways for stakeholders to get involved in the process and make their voices heard.

Louisiana and its citizens are no strangers to flooding and flood risk. Were it not for the devastation caused by the 1927 Mississippi River floods, Congress might not have created a new major flood control program for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. So it’s not hyperbole to say Louisiana’s history is steeped in floods.

Louisiana’s broad deltaic floodplains, storied bayous and New Orleans’ own tenacity and resilience to floods define this region. Louisiana knows how to live with water and the threat of flood. Through its Coastal Master Plan, the state is demonstrating to the nation its leadership in flood risk reduction and how creative cross-jurisdictional planning can ensure a vibrant future despite rising seas.

Why have a flood risk standard for federal investments?

However, Louisiana isn’t alone in experiencing flood damages. Between 1980 and 2013, the United States suffered more than $260 billion in flood-related damages. Accounting for inflation, the dollar losses due to U.S. tropical storms and floods have tripled over the past 50 years.

During this period, the federal government has assumed an increasing proportion of the financial responsibility associated with flooding and coastal storms. Federally funded infrastructure – including buildings, roads, ports, industrial facilities and military installations – have suffered flood damages stemming from higher flood levels, higher sea levels and more severe storms. A goal for the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard is to establish a higher level to which federal actions must be resilient.

This risk management standard represents an important step in coming to terms with more intense storms and sea level rise. The nation and its communities, as well as federal agencies, need to join together to cope with what sea level rise means for our coastal areas, populations, infrastructure and economies.

It’s taken us decades, even centuries, to achieve current levels of development. Now we need to start positioning ourselves to adjust to changing conditions. We need to start building differently and gradually shifting our important assets out of harm’s way.

Leaders in reducing risks

More than 350 communities across the nation, including some in Louisiana, have already implemented standards that account for increased future flood risk, to ensure investments today still provide benefits in a riskier future.

While the federal government is catching up with these communities, it’s been a leader and advocate for floodplain management since 1977, when the federal floodplain management executive order was last updated. Since then, federal agencies have been assessing – usually during their development of an environmental assessment or environmental impact analysis – and minimizing the effects of proposed actions occupying or modifying the floodplain.

The new federal flood risk management standard

The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard supplements the long-standing federal floodplain management Executive Order 11988 approach, by increasing the size of the floodplain and setting a higher level for designing means to lessen flood risks. When evaluating projects, federal agencies must consider:

  • The impacts of their proposed action on adding to others’ flood risk.
  • Ways to reduce impacts of flooding to structures they fund.

Federal agencies still must avoid the direct or indirect support of floodplain development whenever there is a practicable alternative. Practicality is the pivotal word with much turning on the purpose and need for the action. As the last 37 years demonstrate, federal agencies implementing Executive Order 11988 have been prudent in determining practicality.

Federally funded actions have and will continue in Louisiana’s broad, flat floodplains. They will do so in a manner that ensures federal investments lessen the risk of damaging floods, reduces the cost of flood damages to life and property and, should there be a severe event, rebound quickly to serve their intended purpose.

How we go about developing policies and practices to protect federal investments, lives and property from storms, floods and sea level rise is important. While the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard is a good thing, there are two areas worth examining around the executive order: process and substance. In tomorrow's post, we will be examining both of these areas and ideas for improvement.

Check back tomorrow for part two: Improving implementation of the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard.

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City of New Orleans Christmas Tree Recycling Program Celebrates 20 Years of Protecting Wetlands

April 6, 2015 | Posted by jhebert in Community Resiliency, Restoration Projects, Videos

By Samantha Carter, National Wildlife Federation

Where does your Christmas tree go when you leave it at the curb?

If you participated in the New Orleans tree recycling program this year, then as of April 2nd your tree is now in the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.

Black Hawk helicopter drops Christmas trees onto marsh.

Black Hawk helicopter from afar

 

 

 

After your tree was picked up off of the curb in January, it was sorted and bundled by the Department of Sanitation with help from the city’s Office of Coastal and Environmental Affairs. Then teams from the Louisiana Army National Guard Aviation Command, based in Hammond, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service met Thursday, April 2 in New Orleans East to airdrop the bundles into the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.

The National Guard uses the event as a training exercise with two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters which pick up the tree bundles and place them into cribs set up in the marsh. The tree cribs are placed in strategic locations in the marsh to reduce wave action, slow erosion and protect the natural marsh and shoreline habitat. The trees also trap sediments to help create new habitat. Over the years the project has helped to re-establish approximately 175 acres in the Wildlife Refuge.

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Thousands of people in Orleans Parish participate in this program every year and several other parishes in southern Louisiana have programs of their own.  The Christmas tree recycling program is a great way for communities to get involved in restoring the coast. Participation in the program also helps keep the trees from being incinerated or ending up in landfills.

A big thanks to the City of New Orleans, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Louisiana Army National Guard and all those who recycled their trees this year. Be sure to keep your ears open for next year’s tree pick up days!

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Wine & Wetlands event brings together coastal residents, advocates

January 28, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Community Resiliency, Economy, Meetings/Events

Guest post by Mike Mariana, Belle Chasse, LA

Full Room Standing

Wine & Wetlands event at the Woodland Plantation

On January 15, my wife and I attended the Wine & Wetlands event organized by the Restore the Mississippi River Delta coalition and their outreach coordinator for Plaquemines Parish, Philip Russo. More than 50 people from across our parish attended and had the opportunity to hear from several concerned citizens, business owners and governmental representatives, all working in their own way to restore our coast.

Thanks to the sponsorship of several of Plaquemines Parish’s concerned business leaders, all who attended the Wine & Wetlands event at the Woodland Plantation also enjoyed excellent hospitality. The food and spirits helped create a relaxed atmosphere where friends, both old and new, could discuss coastal restoration and the future of our parish.

One thing was clear: Unless we develop significant federal, state and local resources, and follow a solid plan, our parish and our way of life will be literally washed away.

I look forward to many future community activities as we continue to make more people aware of the need for coastal restoration. This is a broad geographical and multi-generational fight, and we have been passed the baton. It is now our jobs to educate the activists of the future and hold government and private-sector organizations accountable for coastal restoration projects on the books now. Please join us.

Regards,

Mike Mariana

Belle Chasse, LA

Stay connected with Restore the Mississippi River Delta by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Group Photo

MRD Coalition members at Wine & Wetlands

Mike at Bayou Dupont

Mike at Bayou Dupont

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Golden Triangle Marsh Creation Project

December 4, 2014 | Posted by lbourg in Community Resiliency, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, Restoration Projects, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

Louisiana recently proposed 5 projects to be funded by the initial round of funding from the RESTORE Act.  The Golden Triangle Marsh Creation  project, located in the Pontchartrain-Maurepas Basin, is designed to restore and protect wetland, fish, and wildlife habitat and help maintain landscape integrity and enhance community resilience.  Here’s what we wrote to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, in support of the Golden Triangle Marsh Creation project:

Dear Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority members,

The undersigned groups appreciate this opportunity to share our collective supporting comments on the Golden Triangle Marsh Creation Project, submitted by the State of Louisiana for RESTORE Council consideration for the first Funded Priorities List of the RESTORE Pot 2 Council-selected projects.

We represent a coalition of conservation interests that have worked for decades to restore a healthy Gulf of Mexico ecosystem – starting with prompt restoration of the Mississippi River Delta – reconnecting the Mississippi River to its delta to protect communities, environment, and economies. Our groups continue to recommend urgent action on projects that will reduce land loss and restore wetlands in the Mississippi River Delta through comprehensive restoration actions that have the potential to provide multiple benefits and services over the long term to the entire Gulf of Mexico.

Most of the necessary restoration actions to be undertaken in Louisiana are already fully authorized under the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007, were unanimously approved by the Louisiana legislature in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, enjoy broad public support, and have been vetted by scientists and lawmakers for many years.

The Golden Triangle Marsh Creation Project, located near the confluence of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet shipping channel and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, is in an area badly damaged by the saltwater intrusion and erosion that followed the dredging of the MRGO. The restored marsh will work with a nearby shoreline protection and marsh creation funded by the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) to help buffer the newly constructed IHNC Surge Barrier, which is essential to the Greater New Orleans’ flood protection, and will also provide important estuarine habitat for Lake Borgne and Mississippi Sound. The project has undergone technical analysis completed by the Corps and the State of Louisiana through the MRGO Ecosystem Restoration Plan authorized in WRDA 2007. The project has a signed Chief’s Report and a completed Programmatic EIS.

The project is important not only for its obvious marsh creation benefits, but also for the citizens of the area who use the area located so close to the city of New Orleans. This project enjoys much public support and will increase the resilience of surrounding communities. We support the continued development of the Golden Triangle Marsh Creation Project and thank the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority for submitting it to the RESTORE Council.

 

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Adapting to climate change using natural infrastructure

November 13, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in Climate, Community Resiliency, Meetings/Events

By Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund

For half a century, the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) has been bringing together water resources professionals for information exchange, professional development and education. Hosting numerous conferences per year, AWRA recently hosted its Annual Water Resources Conference earlier this month in Washington, DC. More than 1,300 people attended the conference to hear presentations on the latest water resources topics and network with fellow professionals. The conference was also special as it was in celebration of AWRA’s 50th anniversary.

As part of this year’s annual conference, Shannon Cunniff, deputy director for Environmental Defense Fund’s water program, organized, the panel “Adapting to Climate Change Using Natural Infrastructure” and then participated as both a presenter and moderator. Joining Shannon were fellow panelists Todd S. Bridges, senior research scientist for environmental science at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, and Sara Murdock, climate change program manager at The Nature Conservancy.

The panelists presented on ways to incorporate natural and nature-based infrastructure into design plans in order to reduce flooding and other risks associated with climate change.

In places like the Mississippi River Delta, natural infrastructure, which includes “green infrastructure” such as wetlands and barrier islands, is critical to protecting cities like New Orleans, communities and infrastructure. And as climate change continues, coastal areas like southeastern Louisiana will be at the forefront of climate adaptation and resilience. Incorporating green infrastructure with traditional “gray infrastructure,” such as floodwalls and levees, will both protect cities and people as well as increase the effectiveness of this existing flood protection infrastructure.

MLOD LARGE

The Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy incorporates both natural and traditional infrastructure to protect communities against storm surge flooding. Source: Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation

Environmental Defense Fund has been working on wetlands restoration in the Mississippi River Delta for 40 years. Lessons learned there can be used to help other coastal and deltaic areas become more resilient in the face of climate change. As part of that initiative, EDF is working on innovative approaches to scale up natural and nature-based climate adaptation and resilience solutions.

“EDF approaches resiliency as building the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems to survive, adapt and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience,” said Shannon to a room of more than 50 conference attendees. “We seek efficient and creative solutions that provide social, economic and environmental benefits; lower risks from climate change; and improve access to traditional as well as innovative sources of funding for implementation.”

“EDF believes we can meet risk reduction needs in ways that improve, not harm, ecosystems,” Cunniff continued. “We believe we can improve economic and social resiliency by building and conserving protective landscapes, or ‘natural and nature-based infrastructure.’”

Perhaps the best indication of attendees’ interest in the enhancing use of natural infrastructure was their lively dialogue with the panelists about the opportunities and needs to incorporate “green” and traditional “gray” approaches, which due to their enthusiasm, extended well into the conference’s cocktail hour.

Shannon also participated in the AWRA Student Career Night that brought together water resources professionals from several career fields (federal and local government, non-profit, consulting and academia) with undergrad and graduate students to learn about career options, how the water resources field is evolving and how to find the right job. Based on the attendance, Shannon noted, “Based on the impressive talent here, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the next generation of water resources professionals’ capability to solve some really big challenges.”

In 2015, AWRA is hosting a summer specialty conference on climate change adaptation and how to respond to it, build resilient systems and influence decision makers. The conference is being held in New Orleans, a city at the frontline of climate change adaptation and resilience. More information can be found on AWRA’s website: http://www.awra.org/meetings/NewOrleans2015/index.html.

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New White House climate agenda focuses on natural infrastructure, climate resilience

October 10, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Community Resiliency, Meetings/Events, Restoration Projects

By Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund

As part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, on Wednesday, the White House announced the release of the Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda. Prepared by the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience Climate and Natural Resources Working Group, this commitment across the Federal Government to support resilience of our natural resources is the first of its kind. The agenda identifies a suite of actions the Federal Government will take to increase the resiliency of our country’s natural resources to the current and future effects of climate change.

Shannon Cunniff, Environmental Defense Funds, speaks at the White House announcement.

Shannon Cunniff, Environmental Defense Fund, speaks at the White House about the importance of natural infrastructure and Mississippi River Delta wetlands restoration.

Included in the agenda are actions to protect important ecosystems and to promote climate-resilient lands and water; improve carbon sinks such as wetlands, grasslands and forests; support including natural infrastructure – such as coastal wetlands – into community planning; and modernizing Federal programs and investments to build resilience. A full list of actions as well as a timeline can be found here. The announcement also included new executive actions to support resilient natural systems, including investing in natural infrastructure, supporting coastal resilience and restoring forests in the Lower Mississippi River Delta.

Shannon Cunniff, Environmental Defense Fund, speaks at the White House.

Shannon Cunniff, Environmental Defense Fund.

Shannon Cunniff, deputy director for water programs at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), was invited to speak at the White House Wednesday. “To propel adoption of natural infrastructure as part of a balanced approach to coastal resiliency, EDF aims to demonstrate that incorporating these nature and nature-based systems cost-effectively reduces risks to coastal communities and improves their resiliency, while providing communities with other benefits,” she said.

“Natural infrastructure needs to be seen and embraced as a viable tool for reducing risk,” Shannon continued. Ms. Cunniff went on to point out that natural infrastructure is ideal for enhancing resiliency because:

  1. Natural infrastructure mitigates multiple sources of risk, including reducing tidal flooding, erosion and wave heights. It is especially effective for frequent, chronic impacts of sea level rise, which are predicted to increase with climate change.
  2. It also helps achieve climate adaptation and mitigation goals, as oyster reefs and wetlands also act as carbon sinks.
  3. Its use results in other co-benefits that achieve other public purposes, such as providing open space, recreation, fisheries, water quality improvement and drinking water protection benefits.

In places like the Mississippi River Delta, natural infrastructure works hand-in-hand with traditional “gray” infrastructure, such as levees and floodwalls. Coastal wetlands provide storm surge protection for levees, increasing the structures’ resiliency and helping prevent failure. Natural infrastructure can also reduce the cost of traditional infrastructure, as the height of seawalls or dunes can be reduced if there are enough protective wetlands in front of them. Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan contains a suite of restoration and resilience tools that work in concert to rebuild and protect Louisiana’s vanishing coast.

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Shannon Cunniff (EDF), Charles Rowney (American Society of Civil Engineers) and Susan Gilson (The National Association of Flood & Stormwater Management Agencies).

“What we are after is putting nature and nature-based infrastructure on a more even playing field with gray infrastructure, to provide the fullest set of tools for communities to plan and implement their more sustainable and resilient futures,” said Ms. Cunniff.

The Administration also reaffirmed its commitment to implement the Green Infrastructure Collaborative in the Climate Natural Resources Priority Agenda. The collaborative includes 26 public and private sector organizations – including Environmental Defense Fund – who have pledged to work together to highlight the multitude of benefits provided by natural infrastructure.

In addition to Ms. Cunniff, other speakers at Wednesday’s announcement were Ben Grumbles, President, U.S. Water Alliance; Ann Mills, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Marion McFadden, Deputy Assistant General Counsel, Office of Housing and Community Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Julius Ciaccia, executive director for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

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Risk and Resilience: Society of Environmental Journalists hosts annual conference this week in New Orleans

September 4, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in BP Oil Disaster, Community Resiliency, Hurricane Isaac, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, Media Resources, Meetings/Events

By Elizabeth Skree, Communications Manager, Environmental Defense Fund

This week, along the Mississippi River at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans, hundreds of environmental journalists, reporters and bloggers; journalism students and professors; communications professionals; and NGO and government expert presenters and panelists are gathering for the annual Society of Environmental Journalists Conference. The conference brings together environmental journalists from around the world to learn about emerging environmental issues, meet new sources and experts, learn about new tools and programs, network and socialize.SEJ poster

The theme of this year’s conference is “Risk and Resilience,” and there is no better place to discuss these issues than the Mississippi River Delta. Nine years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and six years after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, it is impressive how much of the region has recovered. But while many areas have been revitalized, there are just as many areas that are still rebuilding. Recent climate reports indicate that coastal cities like New Orleans can expect to see more intense storms in the years to come, amplifying the need for increased storm protection. In 2010, the Gulf oil disaster delivered yet another blow to Louisiana’s coast. Even now, the full effects of the spill are unknown, and oil continues to wash up on shore.

On top of it all, Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, a first line of defense against storms, have been vanishing at a staggering rate: Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost nearly 1,900 square miles of land. That’s like the state of Delaware disappearing into the ocean. These wetlands help protect cities, communities and infrastructure by lessening the effects of storm surge. But every hour, Louisiana loses another football field of land, putting the region at increased risk.

But there is hope for recovery and the creation of a restored, resilient Mississippi River Delta. Plans are in place to rebuild coastal wetlands, which will in turn help fortify the coast and cities like New Orleans, provide vital habitat for wildlife and migratory birds, create new jobs and protect existing industries and provide a myriad of other ecological and economic benefits to not only Louisiana, but the entire Gulf Coast.

Staff members from the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Campaign will be at this week’s conference serving as tour guides, panelists and exhibitors. They will be available to answer questions about Louisiana’s land loss crisis, the Gulf oil disaster, solutions for restoring the Mississippi River Delta and other environmental issues facing the region. You can find campaign experts on the following field trips and panels:

Thursday field trips:

Louisiana’s Great Lakes, Cypress Swamps and Woodpeckers

  • Alisha Renfro, Staff Scientist, National Wildlife Federation
  • John Lopez, Executive Director and Senior Scientist, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
  • Melanie Driscoll, Director of Bird Conservation, Gulf Coast/Mississippi Flyway, National Audubon Society

Oyster Reefs and Fisheries in the Aftermath of BP and Katrina

  • David Muth, Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation

The Long Road Home: Community Resilience, Adaptations, and Legacies From America’s Biggest Rebuild

  • Amanda Moore, Deputy Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation

Friday panels:

 “The Globe: Feeding Eight Billion People in a Warming World”

  • Rebecca Shaw, Associate Vice President of Ecosystems and Senior Lead Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund

“Oceans and Coasts: The BP Spill’s Untold Ecological Toll”

  • Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund

The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Campaign will also be cohosting a hospitality reception with The Walton Family Foundation Thursday evening from 5:00-9:00pm. Stop by and meet our campaign’s experts and learn more about our work restoring Louisiana’s coast.

We will also have an exhibit booth Friday and Saturday, stop by and pick up materials, hear about our programs and projects and meet some of our staff.

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Nine years later: Is the Gulf Coast prepared for another Katrina?

August 29, 2014 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, Science

This post originally appeared on Environmental Defense Fund's EDF Voices blog.

By Estelle Robichaux, Environmental Defense Fund

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the deadliest storms in United States history.

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the deadliest storms in United States history.

Nine years ago, as Hurricane Katrina gathered strength in the Gulf of Mexico, I called my grandmother and namesake to wish her happy 84th birthday – and to urge her to leave her home on Bayou Lafourche until the storm passed.

It would take several more days before I heard my mother’s voice over the phone and was reassured that everyone in my family was fine. Thankfully, all we lost to Hurricane Katrina were material things.

As we mark another anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, the memory of the infamous storm and its aftermath is still vivid for many current and former Gulf residents.

While New Orleans and many coastal communities have since been revitalized, some scars remain visible and serve as a reminder of the tremendous and destructive power of Mother Nature. They call on us to act now to prepare our communities for the next big storm.

River helps rebuild wetlands

In their most recent reports, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment warned that as the climate continues to warm, the North Atlantic basin will likely experience more Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.

While the Gulf Coast won’t necessarily see more storms in the future, scientists believe they may be more intense. This, combined with the effects of sea level rise, means the region’s communities and infrastructure will be increasingly vulnerable to storm surge and high winds associated with tropical storms.

At Environmental Defense Fund, we’re working as part of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition, to rebuild healthy wetlands in coastal Louisiana, using the natural power of the Mississippi River to take advantage of sediment in the river to rebuild land.

In addition to levees and other structural storm protection measures, the state needs resilient coastal wetlands to be part of its hurricane risk reduction system. Coastal wetlands can serve as an important buffer and retention area for storm surge.

That way, when the next big storm shows up, Louisiana communities and cities will be better protected.

Economic stakes are huge

For the last 40 years, EDF has been working to address the root causes of land loss in Louisiana and find innovative solutions to restore the delta. One-quarter of the state's coastal land area has disappeared since 1930 and Louisiana continues to lose land at an alarming rate – one football field every hour, on average.

Coastal restoration will help save jobs and industry vital to our economy, and help us build resilience against catastrophic storm surges like the one brought by Katrina.

It also has direct implications for important national and international economic and ecological systems:

  • 100 million birds live in or pass through the delta each year, with 400 different species relying on the delta at some point during their life or migratory cycles.
  • Louisiana has the largest commercial fishery in the lower 48 states.
  • Five of the 15 largest ports in the country are in Louisiana, and 60 percent of all grain exported from the United States is shipped through the ports of New Orleans and South Louisiana.
  • Louisiana is home to the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the only deep water oil port in the United States capable of offloading deep draft tankers.

Coming up: Peak hurricane season

With only three named storms to date in 2014, this year’s hurricane season has so far been unusually quiet. But today, nobody in Louisiana is sitting back.

The peak hurricane season, which falls between mid-August and the end of October, has only just begun. This means the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts may see more action soon enough.

At the same time, data show that the intensity and duration of hurricanes continue to increase. Louisianians know we must act now to restore our coast and the protection it gives us before the next Katrina comes along.

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IPCC report examines climate change’s effects on Mississippi River Delta and strategies for adaptation

August 5, 2014 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Community Resiliency, Economics, Hurricanes, Job Creation, Reports

By Keenan Orfalea, Communications Intern, Environmental Defense Fund

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” – President John F. Kennedy

The Mississippi River Delta – one of the largest and most productive wetland ecosystems in North America – is teeming with life, and this rich bounty has supported the development of unique cultures and traditions, alongside industry. At the same time, Louisiana’s fragile coastal wetland ecosystems are facing collapse. Today, the region also faces serious threats from global climate change, combined with other manmade impacts. Climate impacts could devastate Gulf fisheries, submerge critical infrastructure like Port Fourchon and imperil cities such as New Orleans. These outcomes are not inevitable, though, if meaningful action is taken.

Coastal wetlands are the first line of defense against climate change impacts such as storm surge. Unfortunately, the Mississippi River Delta has been losing wetlands at an alarming rate as a result of unsustainable river and coastal management practices. Since 1932, Louisiana has lost nearly 1,900 square miles of land, and every hour, an area of land the size of a football field turns into open water.

While this gradual process may go unnoticed from day to day, the consequences became clear through the devastation of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Intact coastal wetlands could have protected against the force of these storms, because they have the potential to buffer storm surge. For communities that lie behind natural wetland barriers, restoring such ecosystems will increase communities’ resiliency and ability to thrive in the face of climate change.

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A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) focused on the observed and predicted effects of climate change as well as adaptation strategies. The report found strong evidence of variation in key environmental indicators over the past two decades and predicts that this variation is likely to continue into the future, generating increasingly severe effects over time. The report also explores what can be done to confront these new challenges and protect against the most extreme impacts.

For vulnerable, low lying areas like southern Louisiana, any effective adaptation plan will have to utilize multiple strategies simultaneously. Coastal wetland restoration will be one of the most important and cost effective tools for adapting to climate change.

There are costs associated with any restoration program, but strategic investment could produce economic gains for the entire Mississippi River Delta region. According to an analysis by The Center for American Progress and Oxfam America, long-term investment in ecosystem services returned $15 in value for every $1 spent. The same study found that an average of 17 jobs were created per $1 million in spending on ecosystem services, compared to only 9 jobs created from the same investment in the offshore oil and gas industry.

Adaptive coastal planning delivers further benefits by mitigating potential losses from storm damage and sea level rise. Taken together, the gains in human safety and economic stimulus stemming from adaptive planning far exceed the costs of any coastal restoration program. Embarking on this course of action will not only ensure the long-term sustainability of the Mississippi River Delta and its communities, but it could also lay the foundations for future economic development.

Climate change is a global problem, but the earliest and most severe developments will be felt in areas that are most exposed, like the low-lying and disappearing Mississippi River Delta. While mitigating the future impacts of climate change will require an international effort, adaptation must take place on the regional and local levels. Louisiana’s most pressing threats stem from its vanishing coastline. In order to meet the challenges of the future, policymakers and citizens must take immediate action in order to reverse this land loss crisis, because comfortable inaction is not an option.

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The fate and fortune of Plaquemines Parish is tied to the ability to sustain the wetlands

July 31, 2014 | Posted by lbourg in Community Resiliency

By Bobby Thomas, Executive Director of the Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry

This month, the Restore the Mississippi River Delta campaign invited a few leaders of the Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry (PABI) on a tour of several coastal restoration projects along Barataria Bay near Myrtle Grove. Recognizing this as a valuable educational opportunity concerning a topic of utmost importance for the parish – coastal land loss – we gladly accepted.

Philips Photo 1Despite being one of its greatest assets, Plaquemines Parish has lost a significant amount of coastal wetlands since the 1930s, and for most in Plaquemines Parish, this isn’t news. Years ago, you might have needed a boat to experience this; now, you need only stand on a back levee. In recent years, we have heard about restoration projects being proposed, designed and constructed, but it was difficult to develop a realistic understanding of projects so large and inaccessible. Venturing out with Restore the Mississippi River Delta campaign made those details become as tangible as the ground beneath our feet, literally. Watching sediment flow out of a Mississippi River dredging pipeline to create land before our eyes in Lake Hermitage and then walking around on that land that was open water just months ago, it became clear that we are making noticeable strides towards restoring our coast. However, the land built today still needs to be maintained through tomorrow, otherwise we’re right back where we started.

To shed light on this, we also visited the freshwater siphon at West Point a la Hache. We traveled to the siphon via boat from Lake Hermitage,Philips Photo 2 passing ribbons and patches of coastal marsh grasses along the way, but as we approached the siphon, the foliage became larger, greener and denser and was reminiscent of Plaquemines Parish a century ago. This is an area where freshwater and nutrients from the river are still present, and it is evident that if we hope to maintain the new land we are building and the land we plan to build, we’ll need the river there, too.

The fate and fortune of Plaquemines Parish is tied to our ability to value and sustain the wetlands that protect us from storms and provide services so integral to our economy and culture. Thank you for inviting my fellow PABI members and me on such an informative tour.Philips Photo 3

Bobby Thomas

Executive Director of PABI

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