Archive for Community Resiliency

What can the 1927 flood teach us about coastal restoration?

February 2, 2016 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Diversions, Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Restoration Projects, Science

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

During the historic 1927 flood, a portion of the Mississippi River levee south of New Orleans was dynamited to lower the water level and prevent catastrophic flooding – seen in much of the Mississippi River Basin – from occurring in the city. This explosion created a 2-kilometer wide crevasse, which redirected water into nearby Breton Sound.

Nearly 90 years later, scientists have completed measurements in the upper Breton Sound basin to quantify the sediment deposition in the 50-square-mile crevasse splay created by the levee break.

In the study, “Sediment Deposition at the Caernarvon Crevasse during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927: Implications for Coastal Restoration,” John W. Day et al. state that “The 1927 crevasse deposition shows how pulsed flooding can enhance sediment capture efficiency and deposition and serves as an example for large planned diversions for Mississippi delta restoration.”

Figure 2. The Breton Sound Estuary. Dots indicate where core samples were taken and the approximate area of the crevasse splay deposit based on researchers measurements. Blue dots indicate cores that has additional analysis carried out. Upper right inset: aerial photo showing Mississippi River flowing through the 1927 Caernarvon levee breach. Dark black line at hte site of the crevasse is the estimated width of the levee breach.

Figure 2. The Breton Sound Estuary. Dots indicate where core samples were taken and the approximate area of the crevasse splay deposit based on researchers' measurements. Blue dots indicate cores that had additional analysis carried out. Upper right inset: aerial photo showing Mississippi River flowing through the 1927 Caernarvon levee breach. Dark black line at the site of the crevasse is the estimated width of the levee breach. John W. Day et al.

Researchers found a distinct layer of sediment from the 1927 crevasse, ranging from 0.8-16.5 inches thick, at 23 of the sites they sampled, with the thickest layer closest to the river. The investigators estimated that more than 40 million tons of sediment flowed from the Mississippi River into Breton Sound during the 108 days the crevasse was open.

The marshes in the splay captured approximately 55-75 percent of the suspended sediments that poured through the crevasse, which resulted in the deposition of roughly 30 million tons of sediment within the 50-square-mile crevasse splay. In one core, the sediment deposition rate in 1927 was at least 0.8 inches per month – that’s 10 times more than the annual post-1927 average. The results of this study could have important implications for future coastal restoration projects, specifically sediment diversions.

Lessons learned for restoration

The flood of 1927 was an unprecedented, fatal flood that caused massive and widespread economic and structural damages. Louisiana, as well as all the other communities along the Mississippi River, are now largely protected by a federal system of levees and spillways, as evidenced during this year’s winter flood.

But the 1927 flood also provided a major land-building opportunity, as wetlands help provide protection from future flooding and loss of life. Large, episodic flood events, like the 1927 flood and this winter’s high-water event, can be used to build vast land in relatively short periods of time, while balancing the needs of the ecosystem and the people and wildlife that depend on it.

The state of Louisiana is currently working to engineer and design controlled river diversions, which would harness the power of the river to build land. This past fall, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority voted to advance the Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton sediment diversions. Controlled sediment diversions like these are vital components of any large-scale restoration plans.

Possible effects on fisheries

Despite their land-building potential, there currently exist some questions and concerns about how sediment diversions will affect fisheries. The researchers determined that the periodic opening of flood control structures, such as the Bonnet Carré Spillway and the 1927 crevasse, during high-water events, demonstrate the balance that can be achieved between inflows of fresh water and fishery concerns.

“The periodic opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway and the 1927 crevasse at Caernarvon serve as good models for understanding the significance of this fishery concern. The periodic openings have minimized algal blooms to short periods and resulted in larger fisheries catches in years following openings,” the study says.

“Given predictions of accelerated sea level rise, increasing human impacts, and growing energy scarcity, delta restoration should be aggressive and large-scale. We believe that restoration of the Mississippi delta will require diversions similar in scale to historical crevasses if they are to be most effective.”

How was the research conducted? 

The scientists collected 23 sediment cores that extended down 1 meter throughout the 50-square-mile crevasse outfall area. The core sediments were analyzed for sediment type, properties and age. Deposition of sediment from the crevasse extended over seven miles from the break in the levee.

The 1927 sediment deposits were found at an average depth of 13.8 inches below the marsh surface, suggesting a post-1927 deposition rate of 0.2 inches per year. Deposition rates ranged from 0.2 to 4.6 inches per month over the 3.6 months that the crevasse was open.

The estimated sediment load entering through the crevasse from the river during the 1927 event was 40 to 54 million tons, and roughly 30 million tons of that sediment was deposited and retained within the 50-square-mile crevasse splay. Based on the varying thickness of the 1927 deposit over the splay, the volume of the 1927 deposit could cover 11.5 square miles with about 3 feet of sediment.

The lessons learned from researching previous high-water events can help planners design the best, most effective restoration solutions to help rebuild wetlands vital to our future.

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New study: Cost of not pursuing significant coastal restoration could reach $133 billion

December 21, 2015 | Posted by jhebert in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Army Corps of Engineers, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Economics, Federal Policy, Hurricanes, Reports, Restore the Coast, Science

By Elizabeth Van Cleve, Communications Manager, Environmental Defense Fund

Louisiana has lost nearly 1,900 squares miles of land since the 1930s. Without future action to restore the coast and reverse this trend, the state stands to lose another 1,750 square miles of land by 2060.

This land loss crisis not only impacts the communities, wildlife and ecology of south Louisiana, but it also puts cities, homes, infrastructure and industries at risk. Coastal wetlands serve as a buffer against the effects of waves, storms and sea level rise. The continued loss of wetlands jeopardizes Louisiana’s diverse economy as well as the entire nation that depends on the Mississippi River Delta for shipping, oil and gas, fisheries, tourism and other industries.

A recent study conducted by the Louisiana State University (LSU) and the RAND Corporation aims to measure the future economic impacts of continued coastal land loss. Commissioned by the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), “Economic Evaluation of Coastal Land Loss in Louisiana” provides a quantitative understanding of the economic damages caused by wetlands loss if we don’t take action now to restore the coast.

The two-year study measures the projected economic costs associated with continued land loss under future-with-no-action scenario, including projected damages to capital stock, such as buildings, homes and roads; disruption of economic activity, including employment and trade flows; and changes in ecosystem services and related industries, such as fisheries, tourism and recreation.

Key findings from the report include:

  • $2.1-$3.5 billion: Total replacement cost associated with capital stock at risk from land loss
  • $5.8-$7.4 billion: Total annual output (economic activity) at risk from land loss
  • $10-$133 billion: Increase in storm damage to capital stock
  • $5-$51 billion: Total output lost to increased storm damage

“Every dollar we spend today on coastal restoration and protection will save us many, many more dollars in the future,” said CPRA Board Chairman Chip Kline in a press release. “But beyond being cost-feasible, we’re talking about saving lives, families, homes, business and our way of life. This study by LSU and RAND is important in making our case to Congress and the nation that it is better for many reasons to spend now rather than later.”

Read the full report on CPRA’s website here.

The Times-Picayune (video): Coastal erosion, hurricane could cost Louisiana $133 billion

Learn more about how coastal restoration is important to the economy at


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2015 Brings Momentum for the Louisiana Coast

November 25, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Restoration Projects, Restore the Coast

By Emily Guidry Schatzel, Senior Communications Manager, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation

Louisiana’s Mississippi River Delta is a region in dire need of comprehensive restoration. We all know the harrowing statistic facing coastal Louisiana: every hour, a football field of land vanishes off the coast. According to historical averages, Louisiana loses 16 to 25 square miles per year. The rest of the Gulf, which is in many places still working to rebound economically and ecologically from the 2010 Gulf oil disaster, is also in need of projects that will advance real restoration.

Despite this, 2015 was a good year for  coastal Louisiana in many ways. We have a lot to be thankful for this year:

$20.8 billion settlement in Gulf oil spill is largest environmental settlement in U.S. history

More than five years after the start of the 2010 oil spill, the Justice Department and five Gulf States announced they reached a $20.8 billion settlement with BP. We’re thankful for the settlement and federal rules like the RESTORE Act of 2012 that ensure most of the money will be used for restoring the Gulf ecosystem. While $6 billion of the total settlement will go to economic damages across the Gulf states, the remaining more than $14 billion will go to restoring the environment – including critically injured coastal fish and wildlife habitat. In Louisiana, the Coastal Master Plan’s suite of land-building restoration projects will receive at least $4 billion. It’s not nearly enough to get the entire list of projects in the master plan done, but it’s a start, backed by real dollars that weren’t available prior to the settlement.

Restore Council’s priorities list included four of our priority projects

In August, the Gulf Coast Restoration CouncilRestore Map released their draft Initial Funded Priorities List which proposed to dedicate $139.6 million from the oil spill settlement with Transocean Deepwater Inc. to projects and programs that would provide near-term benefits to the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. In Louisiana, this list proposed funding for four of our nineteen priority projects: Mississippi River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp, Golden Triangle Marsh Creation, Biloxi Marsh Living Shoreline and West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment and Stabilization.

Next steps for Louisiana’s first sediment diversions announced

Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) recommended advancing both the Mid Barataria and Mid Breton sediment diversion projects in the Coastal Master Plan, which will reintroduce fresh water and sediment from the Mississippi River into its surrounding wetlands and rebuild land over time. We appreciate this important step toward getting sediment diversions up and running; the urgency and severity of our collapsing delta requires that we use the most powerful tools at our disposal. Sediment diversions provide the best opportunity to restore the coast over time, preserving our communities, industries and entire way of life.

LA- 1: Huge win for protecting coastal restoration funding

Ad - Protect our coastal master plan funding

In October, Governor Jindal proposed that the CPRA Board redirect money from the Coastal Master Plan to fund the elevation of Louisiana Highway 1. Our Coalition immediately took action by vocally opposing this proposal and launching the “Protect the Funding” campaign to raise awareness and garner support to safeguard coastal dollars for restoration. With a flurry of last minute decisions, a better alternative was reached. The Board replaced the draft resolution with one directing CPRA staff to develop a prioritization process for coastal infrastructure projects that could spend up to 10% of available funds under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). GOMESA has already authorized such spending up to 10%, and this is an appropriate use of those dollars. We are thankful that funds dedicated for coastal restoration were kept right where they should be – not redirected to other projects.

Polls show voter support for coastal restoration

Encouraging news – a poll of likely Louisiana voters showed that nearly 94 percent of respondents valued a candidate’s commitment to protect and restore coastal Louisiana. An overwhelming majority (90 percent) said they want the next governor to ensure funds currently dedicated to coastal restoration are not spent on anything but coastal restoration, and 87 percent want the next governor to work to identify and secure additional funding for future projects identified in the state’s Coastal Master Plan.

90Across the board, the poll found tremendous statewide support for coastal restoration:

  1. 85 percent believe restoration of coastal Louisiana should be a high priority for the new governor
  2. 95 percent want the new governor to commit to move quickly and get started building coastal restoration projects
  3. 78 percent believe protecting and restoring coastal Louisiana is as important as other issues facing the state
  4. 97 percent say Louisiana’s coastal areas and wetlands are important to them personally
  5. Two-thirds (66 percent) indicate support for river diversions to build new land in Louisiana

Launched "Restore the Coast" Community Engagement Campaign

In August, our Coalition launched the “Restore the Coast” community engagement campaign to highlight the important role Louisiana’s elected officials play in coastal restoration. This multifaceted, nonpartisan education campaign encouraged Louisiana voters to sign a pledge urging leaders to: be a voice for coastal restoration, protect existing and secure future coastal restoration funding, and support Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan. Our goal was to send a clear message to our public officials: Louisianians want leaders who will prioritize coastal restoration, by keeping restoration dollars for restoration and continuing the forward progress made through the coastal master planning process.

Pelican-1080x1080 Turtles-1080x1080

The “Restore the Coast” campaign included television and radio commercials, billboards, print ads, tabling at local community events, as well as interactive street activities to engage the public and encourage social sharing of this important issue facing Louisiana. Over the course of the entire "Restore the Coast" campaign, we secured over 13,500 pledges, our materials were seen by more than 1 million people online and our videos had more than 335,000 views! We are so thankful for our supporters!

Louisiana’s newly-elected governor made strong commitments

Additionally, Governor-elect John Bel Edwards recently wrote in response to handling key coastal issues while in office:

“I look forward to working with stakeholders to ensure timely funding of coastal restoration projects.

We have lost nearly 2000 square miles of coastal land mass over the last 100 years. The economic contributions of Louisiana’s coast exceed $20 billion per year. But much of this is threatened, including our fisheries, wildlife, tourism, oil and gas, and shipping and navigation industries.

We must immediately match the scale of the crisis with the response, implementing unprecedented coordination and taking three primary actions:

1. Create certainty of funding

2. Ensure the funding is spent only on coastal restoration master plan and priority of projects

3. Fully and convincingly making the case to the Congress and the Administration that coastal restoration in Louisiana is a national priority worth of funding tens of billions of dollars

The Coastal Restoration Master Plan is a living document which must be constantly revisited through the lens of new and better science.”

A voting public and a new governor showing strong commitments to coastal restoration, spending wisely and rebuilding our great Mississippi River Delta are all things to truly be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, from all of us at the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition!

happy thanksgiving

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Submit Your Coastal Restoration Questions for Louisiana’s Next Governor!

October 29, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Restore the Coast

What coastal restoration questions do you have forcoastalquetions2 Louisiana’s gubernatorial candidates? Now is your chance to ask them! The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition is a sponsor of the upcoming Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) gubernatorial debate on November 10 at 7:00 p.m. Central, and we want to hear from you.

Finding solutions to restore Louisiana’s vanishing coast will be high on the list of challenges the next governor will face – a recent survey found 85 percent of voters believe restoration of coastal Louisiana should be a high priority for the new governor. With that in mind, LPB has agreed to consider coastal restoration-related questions submitted by you to ask the candidates during the debate.

Have a coastal restoration question for the candidates? Submit it here by Monday, November 2, and the moderators just might ask your question.

And be sure to tune in to LPB on November 10 at 7:00 p.m. for the debate to see if your question is asked!

Learn more and take the pledge at!

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CRCL Leads the Largest One-Day Volunteer Restoration Effort to Commemorate Hurricane Rita

October 6, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Hurricane Rita

By Jimmy Frederick, Communications Director, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana

Ten years ago the beaches of Cameron Parish were under 15 feet of Gulf of Mexico water as Hurricane Rita slammed ashore. Rita was the second major hurricane to hit Coastal Louisiana in less than a month in 2005 and was, in fact, stronger than Hurricane Katrina when it made landfall. The storm surge inundated coastal communities as far inland as Lake Charles and left thousands of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed. The shoreline of Cameron Parish took a direct hit and was virtually washed away by the fury that was unleashed by Hurricane Rita. But 10 years later, it’s not a story of destruction or devastation it’s a story of hope and recovery and that’s evident by the fact that so many people gave of their time and effort to continue the recovery of the Cameron Shoreline.

On Saturday, September 26, 2015, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) led more than 330 volunteers in planting 60,000 plugs of dune grass and repairing two miles of sand fence. The dune grass acts like a net both above and below the sand. Above the beach, the grass catches blowing sand helping to form the dunes. Below the sand, the roots help hold the sand, silt and soil in place to prevent erosion.

action planing

Two ladies planting in pink

Group Shot Rita 2

T Bradley Sand fence

But, coastal restoration is more than a one day event. As important as this restoration effort was, more must be done. We are losing our rich, productive wetlands and beaches, and the protection they provide. In Southwest Louisiana, the Cameron Shoreline is all that stands between vital coastal communities and the Gulf of Mexico. It is the only natural buffer that protects our livelihoods and our culture from hurricanes and other storms.

Want to get involved? To join CRCL for an upcoming restoration project or to become a member, visit

You can also show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at

Help save our coast! The future of our state depends on it!


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New report quantifies storm reduction benefits of natural infrastructure and nature-based measures

September 29, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Restoration Projects, Science

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

Coastal zones are the most densely populated areas in the world. In the U.S., they generate more than 42 percent of the nation’s total economic output. These coastal communities, cities and infrastructure are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising seas and increased storms, as well as ongoing coastal development, have stripped these natural environments of their innate resilience to storms and flooding, leaving coastlines and the people who live there especially exposed.

EDF photo beach dune

Beach dune

Protecting coastal areas requires a multipronged approach. Traditional hardened infrastructure, such as levees and floodwalls, should be combined with natural infrastructure, such as dunes and barrier islands, to optimize storm protection. By attenuating wave energy, natural infrastructure measures can enhance the performance of and complement traditional gray infrastructure. And in certain situations, natural coastal infrastructure measures can reverse coastal erosion, help rebuild shorelines and even keep pace with rising sea levels.

Natural coastal infrastructure measures also provide significant co-benefits to communities. In addition to reducing the effects of storm waves and surge, these wetlands and other plant-based means also improve water quality, enhance recreational and commercial fisheries, add to the coastal esthetic and attract tourists. Their installation or restoration can also buy time for communities as they develop long-term strategic plans to cope with sea level rise.

In Louisiana, coastal planners understand the importance of nature-based designs, such as sediment diversions and barrier beach nourishment, when developing coastal restoration and protection plans – the state’s Coastal Master Plan is a combination of restoration, protection and resiliency projects.

But with their myriad of benefits, why aren’t natural infrastructure measures being implemented to a greater degree in other parts of the nation?

In part, the reason is the lack of accepted engineering design guidance – a document that explains the engineering principles, issues, methods, and performance metrics for evaluating, siting and designing features. Lacking such, engineers cannot formally sign off on the designs and risk benefits that will be realized.

How can we quantify the storm risk reduction benefits of nature-based measures, so as to help decision-makers and planners choose the best methods for their needs and find financing to implement these projects? Can we accelerate development of engineering guidance?

Natural Infrastructure Workshop and Report

Mangroves public domain pix


Seeking to answer these questions, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) convened a workshop of 19 coastal engineers, scientists, program managers, and financiers to discuss establishing storm risk reduction performance measures of various natural coastal infrastructure solutions.

After completion, EDF produced the report, “Performance of Natural Infrastructure and Nature-Based Measures as Coastal Risk Reduction Features,” which reviews the state of knowledge on the risk reduction performance of natural and nature-based infrastructure, compiled from existing literature as well as workshop participant input. The report includes findings on a host of nature-based measures, including beach nourishment, vegetated dunes, barrier island restoration, edging and sills (living shorelines), oyster reefs, coral reefs, mangroves, maritime forests and coastal wetlands (non-mangroves).

While the report is a bit technical, the authors hope that city planners, coastal engineers and other decision-makers find it useful when determining which storm protection measures to implement in their communities.

Grand Terre_Abita SOS 2

Grand Terre

For each of the measures, the report summarizes its storm risk reduction attributes (e.g., wave attenuation and storm surge protection); lists its strengths, known weaknesses and uncertainties about utility for risk reduction; and identifies suitable conditions for implementation. The report also indicates where engineering design guidelines already exist (e.g., for beach nourishment and dune building) and whether they can be created by modifying existing guidelines (e.g., oyster and coral reefs function like submerged breakwaters).

For the layperson, Table 1 is a one stop shop for information on how each storm risk reduction measure stacks up next to other methods. The table is a summary of the strategies – natural, nature-based, as well as structural – and how each compares regarding risk reduction performance, costs, climate change mitigation, and adaptability to seal level rise and changing community needs.

NI Performance Summary Table

To guide further research supporting adoption of natural infrastructure into coastal resilience plans, the report provides the most catalytic and pressing research needs and lists other survey needs gathered from the literature or raised during the workgroup discussion.

Workshop participants – and subsequent consultation with other engineering experts – confirm that there is sufficient confidence in the ability of natural coastal infrastructure measures to reduce impacts of storms and sea level rise to coastal communities, such that these approaches should be routinely considered as viable options by decision-makers.

With what we know now, implementation of these approaches can be facilitated by developing detailed engineering guidelines that provide functional and structural design guidance as well as address other design issues. As projects are built and monitored, we can further expand knowledge of the circumstances where these measures work best; learn more about how traditional structural, nonstructural, natural infrastructure and nature-based measures can optimally work together; understand how coastal processes are effected; and track the measures’ life expectancies in our increasingly dynamic coastal environments.

You can show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at

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MRD Priority Restoration Projects Included in Restore Council's Initial Draft Funded Priorities List

September 27, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 19 Priority Projects, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Meetings/Events, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

By Helen Rose Patterson, Greater New Orleans Outreach Coordinator, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition

Last week, the RESTORE Council completed the last of six public meetings about their draft Initial Funded Priorities List. Restore the Mississippi River Delta staff attended the meeting in New Orleans on the University of New Orleans campus.

Justin Ehrenwerth, executive director of the RESTORE Council, provided a brief overview of the Council-selected priority watersheds in the Gulf and a more detailed explanation of the projects in Louisiana. Attendees were then given a chance to address the council. The comments were generally positive and tended in the direction of ‘let’s get started rebuilding the coast.’

The seven proposed Louisiana projects include four that are part of Restore the Mississippi River Delta’s list of nineteen priority projects:

  1. Golden Triangle Marsh Creation will provide further protection to New Orleans’ surge barrier and improve the estuary habitat in Lake Borgne.
  2. The Biloxi Marsh Living Shoreline project will provide planning dollars to restore the important habitat and reduce shoreline erosion in the area.
  3. The Mississippi River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp will provide further planning funds for a freshwater diversion from the Mississippi River into the Maurepas swamp which will improve wetland health and provide protection for communities to the west of Lake Pontchartrain.
  4. Finally, the West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment and Stabilization project, part of the larger Barataria Pass to Sandy Point Restoration priority project, would provide for planning to restore and enhance dune and back barrier marsh habitat on West Grand Terre to address shoreline erosion and marsh subsidence.


The FPL also includes other projects important to the Mississippi River Delta, such as canal backfilling in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve and funding for improved study of management of the lowermost Mississippi River.

We appreciate the inclusion of these projects and hope it is just the Council’s first step in addressing long-standing issues in the Mississippi River Delta. We also appreciate that the Council has gone to great lengths to leverage funding from other sources as this will maximize the impact of their investments. Moving forward, we would like to see a more transparent process for the selection and prioritization of projects. We believe that the priorities found in the RESTORE Act should be at the forefront of the Council’s project selection framework and we encourage them to elaborate on how these priorities were integrated into the process of creating this list. We hope that moving forward, project lists will be more focused on large-scale, multi-year projects to more fully achieve the goals of the RESTORE Act.

Citizens have until September 28th to provide comments on the projects. Those comments can be submitted by emailing or mailing to: Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. Attention: Draft FPL Comments, Hale Boggs Federal Building, 500 Poydras Street, Suite 1117, New Orleans, LA 70130.

You can show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at

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Remembering Rita: 10 Years Later

September 24, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Economy, Hurricane Rita, Hurricanes, People, Profiles in Resilience, Restoration Projects

Today, September 24, marks 10 years since Hurricane Rita – the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico – slammed ashore sending a storm surge up to 18 feet in some locations, killing 120 people, damaging areas stretching from Plaquemines to Cameron Parishes and into Texas and causing over $10 billion in damages.

Rita demonstrated that the best offense against future storms is strong “Multiple Lines of Defense” that begins with restoring and preserving the wetlands that buffer wind and waves working in conjunction will structural risk reduction measures and non-structural measures, such as levees and home elevation.

This week, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition welcomes guest authors to our “Delta Dispatches” blog to share their perspectives of Rita and where things stand ten years later.

Hurricane Rita – A palpable shift in the evolution of sustainable housing in Coastal Louisiana.
by: Peg Case, Director of TRAC (Terrebonne Readiness & Assistance Coalition), Houma, LA

Terrebonne Parish is over 85% wetland and open water. Barataria-Terrebonne Basins continue to suffer the highest land loss rates in the state. There are five bayous stretching to the Gulf of Mexico like fingers of a hand. These bayou communities, most vulnerable to the effects of storm surge flooding, are where TRAC, a community-based, long-term disaster recovery organization, has focused its recovery efforts for the past 23 years.

The double sets of hurricanes that affected our parish in 2002, 2005 and 2008 delivered wind and water repeatedly to these bayou communities. Over 13,000 homes were impacted – homes  flooded with five to seven feet of water and swamp mud, wind ravaged roofs and exterior – not once but six times in a period of six years!

The shift from awareness to sustainable action has been years in the making. However, last decades’ disasters brought unprecedented funding streams from both private and government avenues. Since 2005, 1,037 elevation permits have been issued in Terrebonne Parish. The average elevation height is 10-12 feet costing $80.00 per square foot.  Sustainable replacement housing was developed and constructed, such as TRAC’s LA Lift House. (

However these projects were random, need-based, program-eligibility-based, and funded by the destruction of six hurricanes. Looking to the future, we, the collective community involved in coastal restoration, need to address simultaneously sustainable housing activities with funding, planning and partnerships if we are to preserve the culture and communities that live along our coastlines.

Case is contributing author to Disasters by Design: A Reassessment of Natural Hazards in the United States.  She also served as a panel member for the U.S. Senate’s 103rd Congress Appropriations Sub-Committee hearing on hurricane preparedness and evacuation. She currently serves on LAVOAD Board of Directors.

To contact:

You can show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at

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It's a Marathon, not a sprint: Small steps build lasting momentum for comprehensive restoration

September 23, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Restoration Projects, Science

By Estelle Robichaux, Restoration Project Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund and Gaby Garcia, Science Intern, Environmental Defense Fund

This post is part of a series on early restoration planning in Louisiana. Be sure to check out parts one and two for more information on previous plans.

By the early 1990s, Louisiana’s coastal land loss crisis had been studied and documented for more than two decades. Successful establishment of the state-level Office of Coastal Restoration and Management and the Wetlands Trust Fund in 1989 galvanized support and action for wetlands restoration at the federal-level as well. In 1990, Louisiana U.S. Senator John Breaux co-sponsored and helped pass the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and RestorationCWPPRA Act (CWPPRA), sometimes called the “Breaux Act.”

The Act was one of the first attempts to support a comprehensive approach to restoring Louisiana’s coastal wetlands by establishing a dependable, long-term funding stream for projects. A new federal interagency task force, made up of five federal agencies and the Louisiana state government, was also created by the Act to oversee coastal restoration activities, including the prioritization, planning and implementation of small- to medium-scale projects.

Three years after CWPPRA was enacted, in 1993, the Task Force published their Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Restoration Plan, which recommended changes in management of the lower Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. The plan focused specifically on increasing the sediment and freshwater supply to coastal wetlands to reestablish natural land-building processes.

The CWPPRA plan only has a 20-year time horizon, as opposed the 50-year perspective taken in other contemporary plans published by the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR), Louisiana State University or the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. Despite the shorter outlook of the CWPPRA plan, it relies on similar principles and strategies we see in these other plans. Namely, this plan calls for:

  • Shifting navigational use from the existing bird's foot delta to a new western delta in a neighboring estuary, possibly Breton Sound;
  • Multiple diversions to address land loss in Barataria Basin;
  • Reactivation of old distributary channels;
  • Seasonal changes in the Atchafalaya River’s flow distribution; and
  • Projects to facilitate hydrologic restoration, such as: Nourishing barrier island chains and Controlling tidal flows in large navigation channels.

Small scale tests, important success

Even before the passage of CWPPRA, the LDNR was implementing small-scale diversions by cutting crevasses into banks of the southernmost reach of the Mississippi River. Between 1986 and 1993, 20 crevasses were constructed with a mean discharge rate of less than 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Despite the lower flow rates, these crevasses created nearly 1,400 acres of emergent marsh during this period, an impressive amount of land considering the scale of these projects.

The early results of these experimental projects encouraged the prioritization of sediment diversions in the CWPPRA planning process, many of which have also performed well. The Channel Armor Gap Crevasse, for instance, was constructed in 1997 in one of the most rapidly subsiding areas of the delta. This crevasse created nearly 200 acres of land over 10 years and increased overall sediment elevation by more than three feet.

The West Bay Sediment Diversion, on the other hand, was constructed in 2003 and had formed little subaerial land despite the creation of two small spoil islands in the bay in 2009. Due to this lack of land building, it was considered a complete failure and was in the process of being deauthorized. But after the historic flood of 2011, which delivered large quantities of sediment to coastal Louisiana, dry land had emerged in West Bay by that fall. This combination of spoil islands and pulsing floodwaters has proven successful in building land here and may be translated elsewhere across the coast.


West Bay Sediment Diversion

Scaling up the vision for restoration

CWPPRA has played an important role in funding restoration projects, beyond diversions, across the coast. The program has also been critical in supporting long-term, large-scale undertakings, such as the Coast-wide Reference Monitoring System and planning efforts like the Barrier Island Shoreline Feasibility Study and Coast 2050.

The Barrier Island Shoreline Feasibility Study was the first large-scale feasibility study sponsored through CWPPRA. The technical analysis, completed in 1997, was designed to figure out the most effective barrier island configurations to protect inland areas from saltwater intrusion, wind and wave action, storm surge and other extreme events, such as oil spills. An estimate of the possible quantitative effects of different regional barrier island arrangements on Louisiana’s environmental and economic resources were produced through this work as well.

The scope of the study was limited to the shoreline from the Atchafalaya River east to the Mississippi River and provided two alternatives for restoration. These results ultimately informed the initial Barrier Shoreline Restoration studies conducted as part of the Army Corps’ Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, which in turn formed the basis for two of our priority projects, Barataria Pass to Sandy Point and Belle Pass to Caminada Pass Barrier Island Restoration.

While the CWPPRA Plan proposed some forward-thinking solutions at the basin-wide level to mimic natural processes, Coast 2050 took comprehensive planning even further. This initiative, finalized in 1998, was jointly developed by the Louisiana State Wetlands Authority and the CWPRRA Task Force and takes a regional perspective on restoration strategies for long-term ecosystem sustainability. The LCA Ecosystem Restoration Study was largely based on the recommendations and vision of Coast 2050, both of which played a significant part in shaping the 2012 Coastal Master Plan and the way we envision restoration in coastal Louisiana.

Be sure to check out our next post for more details on Coast 2050 and the Louisiana Coastal Area Study!

You can show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at

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Remembering Rita: Ten Years Later

September 22, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Hurricane Rita, Hurricanes, People, Profiles in Resilience

September 24 marks 10 years since Hurricane Rita – the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico – slammed ashore sending a storm surge up to 18 feet in some locations, killing 120 people, damaging areas stretching from Plaquemines to Cameron Parish and into Texas and causing over $10 billion in damages.

 Rita demonstrated that the best offense against future storms is strong “Multiple Lines of Defense” that begins with restoring and preserving the wetlands that buffer wind and waves working in conjunction will structural risk reduction measures and non-structural measures, such as levees and home elevation.

 This week, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition welcomes guest authors to our “Delta Dispatches” blog to share their perspectives of Rita and where things stand ten years later.

In The Eye of the Storm: A Personal Account of Rita by Windell Curole

September 20, 2005 – In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a congressional hearing was held concerning improving the way we warn and prepare for hurricanes.  One of the panel members with me is Dr. Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center.  We testify to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s Disaster Prevention and Prediction Subcommittee.  We both discuss and are concerned about Hurricane Rita and the probability of it following in Hurricane Katrina’s footstep.

After the hearing, we wish each other good luck as he hurries out of Washington to get to the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, and I hurry back to South Lafourche.  In the next two days, Rita becomes what everyone fears; another monster hurricane heading for the northern Gulf of Mexico coast.  Like Katrina, it becomes a Category 5 hurricane, and like Katrina, it drops in wind intensity to a Category 3 by landfall on the 23rd of September.

In South Lafourche the tide is already rising on the morning of September 22nd when we have to close the Leon Theriot floodgate, two miles south of Golden Meadow.  The storm is many miles to the south in the middle of the gulf, but pushes a large tide because of its size and power.  We close the Ted Gisclair floodgate in Larose.  We are managing both floodgates trying to allow boats to enter the system while keeping as much water out of Bayou Lafourche as possible.

Hurricane Rita makes landfall on Friday morning on the LA-Texas border and pushes a 17 ft. storm surge near the eye of the storm.  The storm was so big that water kept rising for a day and a half after landfall in southeast Louisiana.  And then it kept rising in the northern part of the South Lafourche levee system.  It came within a foot of the Clovelly levee in Cut Off, but by noon Sunday on Sept. 25th, the 45 mph wind finally fell to a breeze and the water levels began to decrease.  If the storm had made landfall closer to Lafayette, or any place east of Lafayette, we may have had serious flooding in the South Lafourche system.

Aggressively building and raising the levee through the years allowed our area to work successfully with the 8 to 9 ft. of water against the levee.  In fact, the protected area of South Lafourche was one of the only areas to avoid flooding in 2005.  Good levees and good luck, South Lafourche needed both to survive 2005.

Windell A. Curole, General Manager, South Lafourche Levee District

Join us tomorrow September 23 in Houma for an expert panel discussion with state and local leaders on restoration and recovery 10 years after Rita. Details here.

You can also show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at

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