Archive for Community Resiliency


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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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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Study shows how coastal habitats help provide protection from storms, sea level rise

September 3, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Community Resiliency, Hurricanes, Reports, Restoration Projects, Science

By Alisha Renfro, Coastal Scientist, National Wildlife Federation

Coastal communities throughout the U.S. are increasingly threatened by rising sea levels and extreme weather events. The conventional approach for protecting people and property along the coast has relied on engineering solutions such as levees, seawalls and bulkheads, which “harden” shorelines. However, not only can these structures be expensive to build and difficult to maintain, but in some cases, they can also increase erosion, impair the recreational uses of the area and reduce water quality.

In recent years, efforts to protect coastal communities have been expanded to recognize restoration and conservation of coastal habitats as ways to help buffer coastlines from waves and storm surge. In a study recently published in Nature, “Coastal habitats shield people and property from sea-level rise and storms,” researchers assessed the risk reduction that natural habitats provide to vulnerable people and property and found that loss of the ecosystems that currently exist will result in greater damage to people and property.

Louisiana barrier island. Credit: NOAA.

Different types of coastal habitat and shoreline offer varying levels of protection to coastal communities depending on their morphology and previously observed ability to offer protection from erosion and flooding. For example, in this study, coastal forests and high cliff shorelines were classified as providing a higher level of protection when compared to marsh and oyster reef habitat, with barrier beach shorelines and areas with no habitat offering the lowest level of protection.

To provide a nationwide view of the risk reduction that could be provided by natural coastal habitat, the researchers in this study compiled a coastal habitat map for the U.S. and compared model runs with and without the habitats under present-day and future sea level scenarios. Their modeling results indicated that, today, 16 percent of the U.S. coastline is classified as a “high hazard” area. When the same conditions were modeled without the presence of protective coastal habitats, the results suggested the extent of U.S. coastline that would be considered vulnerable to storms and sea level rise would double.

Compared to the West Coast, the low-relief Gulf and eastern coasts of the U.S. are more vulnerable to both sea level rise and storms. In order to better protect these vulnerable regions, the authors of this study suggested that large expanses of coastal forests and wetlands, oyster and coral reefs, dunes and sea grass beds are critical.

Recently, some coastal protection plans have begun incorporating conservation and restoration of coastal habitat alongside traditional physical structures. Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan is an excellent example of a plan that acknowledges not only the value that coastal habitats have for the fish and wildlife of the area, but it also examines how to combine conservation and restoration of these habitats with traditional engineering strategies to enhance protection for the millions of people that call coastal Louisiana home.

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Katrina and Isaac anniversaries remind us of urgent need for coastal restoration

August 29, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Community Resiliency, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Hurricane Isaac, Hurricane Katrina

By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation

This week marks the anniversaries of Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac. As we take time to remember and commemorate, we must also look to the future and commit to preparing for the next storm and protecting our communities.

Even eight years after Katrina, it’s hard to forget the storms. Recovery and rebuilding remain an everyday reality in coastal Louisiana. Levees and home elevation are some of the more immediate ways to protect ourselves, but these measures work best when part of a multiple lines of defense strategy that includes restoration of our natural storm protection along the coast.

Lopez, John A., 2006, The Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy to Sustain Coastal Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Metairie, LA January 2006.

For example, wetlands serve as a buffer for levees, reducing wave energy and the chance of over-topping, thereby reducing the chance that levees will fail. But the marshes, ridges and barrier islands that reduce waves and storm surge are disappearing at an alarming rate – we lose one football field of wetlands every hour in Louisiana.

That statistic stings the most when storms are brewing in the Gulf. Our communities need the protection of a healthy and resilient coast, and getting there will take the support of all who care about the future of our region.

At a public meeting in New Orleans yesterday, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council approved its Initial Comprehensive Plan.

Yesterday, coincidentally on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Isaac, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council approved its Initial Comprehensive Plan for restoring the Gulf Coast’s ecosystem and economy after the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. The next crucial step will be for the Council to select and implement sustainable restoration projects that will protect our communities and restore our ecosystems. The Council should work with Louisiana to prioritize restoration projects set forth in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan.

Find out how you can get involved and help restore our coast!

Stay up-to-date on opportunities by visiting www.mississippiriverdelta.org, taking action, liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.

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Joint Ocean Commission Initiative report underscores importance of coastal restoration

August 7, 2013 | Posted by Rachel Schott in Community Resiliency, Economics, Federal Policy, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Latest News, Reports, RESTORE Act, Science

By Rachel Schott, Environmental Defense Fund

In June, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, a bipartisan 16-member council representing diverse ocean interests, released a new report, “Charting the Course: Securing the Future of America’s Oceans.” The report outlines important ocean reform and coastal restoration recommendations for Congress and the Obama Administration. Being an “ocean nation,” the health of the U.S. economy is closely tied to health of its oceans. For Gulf Coast residents, this specifically means the Gulf of Mexico. The report has implications for both the health the Gulf Coast environment and the economies that rely on it.

“Our oceans and coasts are vital to our nation’s economy and security, as well as to the health and quality of life of its citizens,” states the Joint Initiative in the report. No one understands this better than Louisiana and Gulf Coast residents. After the 2010 oil disaster, in 2012, Congress took an important step toward securing the future health and vitality of the region when it passed the RESTORE Act – legislation that dedicates fines from the Gulf oil disaster to the Gulf Coast states for restoration. However, project selection and final authorization of funds has yet to be determined.

The report makes recommendations that advocate for restoring the coast’s natural coastline, strengthening its ability to protect communities from storms and rebuilding natural habitats and ecosystems. These recommendations offer a valid perspective for allocating available RESTORE Act funding and BP oil spill penalties to coastal restoration projects.

In its report, the council – consisting of national, state, and local leaders from diverse government agencies, academic institutions and industries – provided a set of science-based policy recommendations that enhance the long-term security and economic priorities of the nation’s coast. Two actions that would directly affect the Mississippi River Delta and coastal Louisiana are as follows:

  • “Enhance the resiliency of coastal communities and ocean ecosystems to dramatic changes underway in our oceans and on our coasts.”
  • “Support state and regional ocean and coastal priorities.”

As hurricanes and super storms become more common, it will become vital that policymakers implement programs that increase coastal resiliency. National decision makers must understand the underlying issues and local community priorities to effectively select and implement coastal restoration projects.

As the report underlines, building stronger and more resilient coastlines benefits not just those living near the coast, but the entire nation that depends on healthy coasts and oceans. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council has an unprecedented opportunity to allocate RESTORE Act funds to implementing coastal restoration projects and becoming an integral part of rebuilding the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast and the economies that depend on a healthy Gulf Coast.

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Hurricane Season 2013: Let’s prepare our coast!

June 1, 2013 | Posted by Rachel Schott in Community Resiliency, Hurricanes, Restoration Projects

By Rachel Schott, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign

Preparation for hurricane season is second nature to most Louisianans. From gathering supplies to boarding up windows to mapping out evacuation routes, coastal residents acknowledge their tenuous positioning on the Gulf and the uncertain weather conditions that come from June to November. Yet with all this preparation, a question remains: Is the Louisiana coast as prepared as its residents? With the beginning of another hurricane season, the need for restoring the Mississippi River Delta and building coastal resiliency is more important than ever. 

Aerial view of Louisiana's loss of marsh and wetlands
Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Louisiana’s location on the Gulf makes it vulnerable to hurricane storm surge, winds and flooding, as evidenced by the destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Isaac. The Louisiana coast consists of wetlands and marshes that provide buffer zones for the southern part of the state. Unfortunately, drastic land loss has reduced this natural protection, leaving Louisiana and its residents in an increasingly dangerous position.

In addition to providing storm protection, the Mississippi River Delta and wetlands are home to a diverse scope of wildlife habitats, vegetation and animals; factors that have shaped Louisiana’s culture and continue to drive tourism. As the wetlands diminish, not only will a number of ecosystems be lost, but also the unique and vibrant lifestyle of Louisiana residents. Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost about 1,900 square miles of land and continues to lose land equivalent to the size of Manhattan every year. Couple this land loss with rising sea levels and predictions of an “above-normal” 2013 hurricane season, and Louisiana is reminded even more of the value and necessity of timely wetlands restoration.

Prepare yourself this hurricane season by sharing coastal restoration issues with others and help work toward rebuilding the Mississippi River Delta.


 

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Louisiana’s compounding coastal threats

May 10, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Community Resiliency, Science

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

Worldwide, rising global temperature is a threat to coastal communities in the form of rising sea levels and stronger hurricanes. Last week, the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans hosted a presentation by Virginia Burkett, Ph.D., Chief Scientist for Global Climate and Land Use Change at the United States Geological Survey. In Dr. Burkett’s presentation, “Climate Change and Sea Level Rise: Implications for New Orleans,” she discussed the science of climate change and the threats sea level rise present to the vulnerable low-lying landscape and communities of coastal Louisiana. Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan acknowledges these threats and outlines a 50-year plan for protection and restoration that takes into account subsidence, sea level rise and increased storm frequency and intensity.

Long Term Relative Sea Level Trends for the United States. Source: NOAA.

Global sea level rise is a consequence of water influx from melting glaciers and ice sheets and the expansion of ocean water as it is heated. During the 20th century, global sea level rose approximately eight inches, but satellite data indicates that the annual rate of sea level rise has almost doubled over the last 20 years. As the different processes that affect melting of large ice sheets are still the subject of intense scientific study, the range of predicted sea level rise in this century ranges from 0.6 to 6.6 feet, but  the most likely range of sea level rise is between one and four feet.

While the predicted rate of global sea level rise is enough to cause concern for many coastal regions, in Louisiana, the threat is intensified as not only is sea level rising, but the land is also sinking. Subsidence can occur due to natural geological processes, such as dewatering and compaction of deposited river sediments over time, but it can also be increased by human actions, such as groundwater withdrawal and oil and gas extraction. Subsidence rates across Louisiana’s coast vary, but in many areas, the rate of subsidence far exceeds the global rate of sea level rise. The combination of global sea level rise and local subsidence means that the local sea level will rise sooner and higher in Louisiana than in most other places in the world.

Sea Level Trends. Source: NOAA

At the conclusion of her talk, Dr. Burkett had a few recommendations for actions we here in Louisiana can take to adapt to sea level rise and increase the resiliency of our coastal communities and coastline. For coastal communities, elevating and flood-proofing infrastructure are important steps for adapting to the increased threat of inundation from sea level rise and hurricanes, but in some cases, retreat from low-lying coastal areas may be necessary.

We can better manage our coast by factoring our understanding of the natural processes and trends and by getting sediment from the Mississippi River into the wetlands. As one of the most vulnerable areas to sea level rise in the United States, coastal Louisiana will serve as the testing ground for scientific innovation and policy that will likely shape the response of coastal communities throughout the country to the threats of climate change and sea level rise.

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