Archive for Community Resiliency


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.

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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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Of Coast and Culture: Happy Mardi Gras, Y’all!

March 4, 2014 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Meetings/Events

By Eden Davis and Philip Russo, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition

There are many reasons to advocate for coastal restoration in Louisiana, but few arguments are as compelling as preserving the cultural legacy of a state known for its food, music and festivities. That’s why we as part of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition are doing our best to celebrate tirelessly the cultural apex that is Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We, along with the rest of the community, line the sidewalks and neutral grounds of the boulevards where we share black cauldrons of jambalaya and generous portions of king cake. We gather to see and hear the spectacle that is the dance troupes, marching bands and ornate floats, but most importantly, we do it to feel the pulse of our community and to indulge in its vitality. We may have not always vocalized it as such, but it’s why we’ve always done it, going back all the way to the founding of the oldest and most venerable Krewe of Rex that rolls Mardi Gras morning.

Krewe of Rex King

The Krewe of Rex has held more parades than any other organization. They are the origin of many Mardi Gras traditions, including the official Carnival colors of purple, green and gold. Founded in 1872, Rex sought to attract new businesses and residents to a New Orleans that was struggling to recover from the lingering effects of the Civil War, when divisions and isolation prevailed. The founders knew the creation of a grand Mardi Gras celebration would lend itself to healing those wounds and restoring the unity that was such a prominent feature of this silted landscape. Most would agree that their efforts were an unbelievable success, but history has a way of repeating itself.

Krewe of Rex 2

After Hurricane Katrina, this same story played out again as New Orleans struggled to rebuild not only its levees and homes, but its image. Today’s worries are not of the aftermath of a civil war, but of decades of tremendous land loss and increasingly devastating hurricanes. To ameliorate this, the state adopted a Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast. If enacted thoroughly, barrier islands, sediment diversions and marsh creation projects will, along with the efforts of Mardi Gras Krewes, not only sustain our coast, but also the traditions that makes it worth inhabiting. So we are doing our part, reveling when we can, sleeping when we can and asking everyone to join us in support of Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan and coastal restoration. Happy Mardi Gras, y’all!

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Media Advisory for Feb. 20: “Bayou Sundance” Documentary to Premiere in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward

February 14, 2014 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Media Resources, Meetings/Events

Media Advisory for Thursday, February 20, 2014

Contact: Arthur Johnson, The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, 504.421.9643, ajohnson@sustainthenine.org

“Bayou Sundance” Documentary to Premiere in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward 

Provocative film details history of Bayou Bienvenue through eyes of community elders and youth

Bayou Sundance

The Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle is a degraded bald cypress swamp just north of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Over the past 50 years, human activity has caused the swamp and surrounding ecosystem to erode, increasing the city’s vulnerability to storms and contributing to catastrophic damage during Hurricane Katrina.

Through the eyes of community elders and youth, “Bayou Sundance” documents the history of the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle, including the decline of nearby wetlands, resulting impacts and the area’s movement toward rebirth. This powerful story captures the importance of urban wetlands, natural storm protection for coastal cities and serves as a historical environmental justice case study.

You are invited to join us for the premiere of “Bayou Sundance” and to learn more about the future of Bayou Bienvenue and the importance of coastal restoration to both the city of New Orleans and the state. Light dinner will be served.

This film is a product of The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development with support from Environmental Defense Fund and National Wildlife Federation.

The trailer can be viewed online here, and the full film will be available starting February 20 at www.restorethebayou.org.

Film Screening and Panel Details:
WHAT: Film screening and Q&A panel with filmmakers and producers

WHEN: Thursday, February 20, 6-7:30 p.m. CT

WHERE: All Soul’s Community Center
5500 St. Claude Avenue
Lower Ninth Ward
New Orleans, LA 70117 ‎

WHO: Arthur Johnson: Executive Director, The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development and Producer of "Bayou Sundance"
Happy Johnson: Teacher, Author and Co-Director of "Bayou Sundance"
Amanda Moore: Greater New Orleans Program Manager, National Wildlife Federation

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The Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy Gingerbread House

December 23, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Community Resiliency

By Philip Russo, Plaquemines Parish Outreach Coordinator, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign

We have many holiday traditions down here in the Mississippi River Delta. But whether you’re planning to bask in the smoky warmth of a levee bonfire or tour the illuminated oaks of New Orleans City Park, we here on the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign have decided there’s room for one more holiday tradition: the Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy gingerbread house.

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The idea for this resilient confectionary model came in response to a contest held by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) at their annual holiday party in New Orleans. An organization dedicated to “providing leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating  and sustaining thriving communities worldwide,” ULI’s principles echoed our own for creating a resilient, sustainable Louisiana coast for the people who call the area home. With this in mind, we envisioned a gingerbread house – featuring as many saccharine forms of storm protection as we dared to coat in icing – would be a sweet combination of our organizational philosophies.

MLODS LPBF

The Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy (MLODS), as illustrated above, is made up of eleven types of lines of defense, including barrier islands, marsh, ridges, highways, flood gates, levees, elevated buildings and evacuation routes. Incorporating both natural and non-structural defense measures, the strategy is a methodology for protecting and defending the people, communities and infrastructure of coastal Louisiana.

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To best emulate the MLODS in gingerbread house form, we slathered, shaped and sprinkled our Creole gingerbread cottage into existence, placed it on elevated peppermint pilings and located it behind the protective layers of licorice levees, Hershey Kiss highways, sugary swamps and more. After hours of considering which candy would make the most convincing cypress siding and debating the moral ambiguity of utilizing an invasive species like the Swedish Fish, it was clear that this is a holiday activity worthy of South Louisiana tradition.

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To give this tradition momentum, we hope to host a statewide competition for Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy gingerbread houses next year and, like Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan, we advocate that victory can only be assured with comprehensive execution.

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Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival celebrates its 66th year

December 17, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Community Resiliency, Meetings/Events, People

By Philip Russo, Plaquemines Parish Outreach Coordinator, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign

During the first weekend in December, local residents and tourists alike celebrated the bounty of Plaquemines Parish’s cultural and economic successes at the 66th annual Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival in Buras. Huddled between the protective Mississippi River levee and the elegantly decayed Fort Jackson, the festival was not entirely spared the blustery and frosty weather that is typical of early December. Yet despite the weather, fairgoers celebrated “the best Citrus in the Country” and reveled in the Mississippi River Delta’s natural beauty.

Dancing

Festival queens dancing at the Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival.

The fusion of Creole and Croatian cuisine served throughout the festival grounds presented a tasty backdrop for the series of navel-themed contests, such as orange peeling and orange eating, that festival queens from all over Louisiana came to compete in. The festival was successful and well-attended, but local residents still lament that the fair has not returned to being held within the confines of Fort Jackson itself – a tradition interrupted by extensive flood damage resulting from Hurricane Katrina. However, if coastal erosion and sea level rise are not countered with aggressive coastal restoration efforts, Millennials may be the last generation to enjoy the festival on this site.

Kumquats

Festival queens competing to see who can fit the most kumquats in their mouths.

Storied harvest festivals are a common but precious feature of the fragile human landscape of coastal Louisiana. As we design and implement coastal restoration projects, we are protecting and preserving not only the delta and its vital wetlands, but also the area’s occupants, their way of life and the cultural legacies of the region which depend on the health of the Mississippi River Delta. So whether you’re a fan of hearing the Crawfish Race Commissioner yell “ils sont partis” at the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge or festival queens competing to see who can fit the most kumquats in their mouths at the Orange Festival in Buras, seeing Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan thoroughly implemented should be a top priority.

Fort Jackson

An entrance to Fort Jackson in Buras, La.

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