Archive for Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council


$52.2 million in oil spill funds approved for Louisiana coastal restoration

December 15, 2015 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, coastal restoration, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

By Elizabeth Weiner, Senior Policy Manager, Environmental Defense Fund

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Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce and Chair of the RESTORE Council. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

Last week, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council approved its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) of projects and programs to fund with civil penalties available from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Transocean settlement. This is an important step forward for the entire Gulf Coast that is still recovering from the spill. In particular for the Mississippi River Delta, the FPL demonstrates both the state of Louisiana’s commitment to funding Coastal Master Plan projects with RESTORE dollars and progress in implementing the master plan.

Louisiana submitted five project proposals, all of which are projects from the Coastal Master Plan. While these projects are still in planning phases, they represent critical near-term opportunities to keep the Mississippi River Delta on its path to recovery and sustainability. The Louisiana master plan projects receiving funding include:

Two additional projects, Jean Lafitte Canal Backfilling ($8.7 million; implementation) and Bayou Dularge Ridge, Marsh and Hydrologic Restoration ($5.2 million; planning), are also located in Louisiana and were included in the Council’s FPL. These two projects, submitted for funding by federal members of the RESTORE Council, are complementary to and consistent with the Coastal Master Plan and will directly benefit coastal Louisiana.

The RESTORE Council meeting in Biloxi, Miss. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

The RESTORE Council meeting in Biloxi, Miss. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

The finalization of this FPL comes in follow-up to positive progress made through other Gulf oil spill funding streams – the National Fish and Wildlife Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, created by criminal plea agreements with multiple responsible parties, and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDA) process.

Now that BP’s settlement of civil penalties and responsibilities under NRDA is pending, both the RESTORE Council and the NRDA Trustee Council will be able to make even more progress, with an eye toward large-scale restoration. For the RESTORE Council, the next step will be an update to its Initial Comprehensive Plan to improve decision-making, project selection, and to consider the projects planned and funded through the other oil spill funding streams. For the NRDA Trustees, their next step will be considering public comments and finalizing the draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan.

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RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

December 9, 2015 | Posted by jhebert in BP Oil Disaster, Federal Policy, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Media Resources, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

(December 9, 2015 – Biloxi, Miss.) Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council voted to approve its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) – a compilation of restoration projects the Council will prioritize for funding and implementation following the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. This set of projects will be funded by a portion of RESTORE Act dollars designated for ecosystem restoration from the Transocean Clean Water Act settlement.

National and local conservation organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

“We congratulate the RESTORE Council and staff on their efforts to finalize this Funded Priorities List. Our organizations look forward to continuing to monitor projects as they move into the implementation phase.

“Additionally, now that the BP settlement is near final, the RESTORE Council and the Gulf states have a tremendous opportunity ahead to achieve broader meaningful restoration and lasting resilience for the essential ecosystems of the Gulf. However, with certainty around funding levels, the Council will be faced with difficult decisions. In order to make progress toward comprehensive restoration, the Council will need a science-based process for prioritizing future projects, with a focus on more large-scale proposals. With the first BP settlement payments on the horizon, it is essential that the Council promptly turn its attention to updating the Comprehensive Plan, so that it can serve as a tool to guide future investments around the Gulf. We stand ready to assist the Council and staff as they undertake this critical next step.”

Media Contact:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, johnlopez@saveourlake.org

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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 restorecouncil@restorethegulf.gov 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 RestoretheCoast.org

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RESTORE Council Releases Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

August 13, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Federal Policy, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Media Resources, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Contact:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, johnlopez@pobox.com

 

RESTORE Council Releases Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

National and Local Conservation Groups Call List Positive Step Forward; Tremendous Opportunity Ahead for Long-Lasting Restoration with BP Settlement

(New Orleans – August 13, 2015) Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council released its Funded Priorities List (FPL) – a compilation of restoration projects the Council intends to prioritize for funding following the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. These projects will be funded by a portion of RESTORE Act dollars designated for ecosystem restoration from the Transocean Clean Water Act settlement. The announced list is now open for a public comment period, with comments due September 28, 2015. The Council will also hold public meetings on the FPL in each of the Gulf states.

National and local conservation organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

“While we haven’t yet engaged on the details of the list, we are encouraged to see this first Funded Priorities List moving forward into the public comment period, and we congratulate the RESTORE Council and staff for their efforts to reach this point. The RESTORE Act is focused on comprehensive restoration for the Gulf of Mexico, and our organizations are eager to see strong projects progress to actual construction and implementation.

“With a final BP settlement on the horizon, the RESTORE Council and the Gulf states have a tremendous opportunity ahead to plan for and achieve meaningful restoration and lasting resilience for the essential ecosystems of the Gulf. Our organizations look forward to reviewing and providing comments on this first project list over the coming weeks and working with the Council on the next, more comprehensive FPL process.”

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NEWS RELEASE: Conservation Groups Release Restoration Solutions for Mississippi River Delta

December 9, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in BP Oil Disaster, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Media Resources, Reports, Restoration Projects

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Lauren Bourg, National Audubon Society, 225.776.9838, lbourg@audubon.org

Conservation Groups Release Restoration Solutions for Mississippi River Delta
New report recommends a series of science-based restoration efforts to benefit coastal Louisiana

(NEW ORLEANS – December 9, 2014) Today, leading national and local conservation groups released a report outlining 19 priority projects for restoring the Mississippi River Delta following the 2010 Gulf oil disaster.

Restoring the Mississippi River Delta for People and Wildlife: Recommended Projects and Priorities was jointly authored by conservation groups working together on Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana – and describes a suite of restoration projects that would collectively reverse wetlands loss and help protect New Orleans and other coastal communities from storms. The project recommendations include sediment diversions, freshwater diversions, marsh creation, barrier island reconstruction, ridge restoration, shoreline protection and hydrological modifications. The proposed project solutions can work in tandem to not only build but also sustain new wetlands along Louisiana’s coast.

The report is aimed at informing a series of decisions that will be ultimately made for funds flowing from the Gulf oil disaster, including those to be made by Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council). The federal-state Council is tasked with implementing a comprehensive restoration plan to include a list of projects prioritized for their impact on the Gulf ecosystem. The Council recently released a list of projects and programs proposed for funding with oil spill penalty money.

“The Mississippi River Delta was ground zero for the Gulf oil disaster,” said David Muth, National Wildlife Federation’s director of Gulf restoration. “These project recommendations, if selected and implemented efficiently, could begin in earnest the wholesale restoration of one of the most ecologically and economically important areas in the entire country. The health of the Mississippi River Delta is a cornerstone for the health of the entire Gulf Coast. ”

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get this right and start real restoration along the Gulf Coast,” said Doug Meffert, executive director and vice president of Audubon Louisiana. “Our recommendations present a full suite of restoration solutions that work in concert, providing complementary benefits and sustaining one other. We hope the Council will select restoration projects like these, which are scientifically shown to provide the maximum benefit to the entire Gulf ecosystem.”

“By combining different types of projects in the same geographic area – for example, sediment diversions, marsh creation and barrier island restoration – we can build new land quickly and sustain it for the long term,” said Natalie Peyronnin, director of Science Policy for Environmental Defense Fund’s Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program. “This comprehensive approach to restoration is much more effective than using a band-aid approach. We must get restoration right – and get it started now – for the communities, wildlife and economies of the Gulf.”

“The oil spill affected wildlife and ecosystems across the Gulf Coast, and we need to make smart decisions about how to use this money to improve the health of the entire system,” said Muth. “We owe it to future generations to determine where this money can have the greatest impact and to focus our efforts there.”

The oil disaster sent roughly 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana’s coastline received the largest amount of oil and was suffering one of the fastest rates of wetlands loss in the world even prior to the spill. BP and the other companies responsible will ultimately pay billions of dollars in penalties and punitive damages, much of which will be allocated to the Gulf states for restoration.

For a full description of the 19 projects, visit http://www.mississippiriverdelta.org/files/2014/12/Restoring-the-Mississippi-River-Delta-for-People-and-Wildlife.pdf

For a full description of the 19 projects, push here.

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Please contact Emily Guidry Schatzel, schatzele@nwf.org, for a recording of the telepress conference.

The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of threatening land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Composed of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, we are located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. A map of the projects and descriptions are available for download at www.mississippiriverdelta.org/map.

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West Maurepas Freshwater Diversion Project

December 5, 2014 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

Louisiana recently proposed 5 projects to be funded by the initial round of funding from the RESTORE Act.  The West Maurepas Freshwater Diversion project’s objective, also known as the Mississippi River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp project, is to restore and enhance the health and sustainability of the Maurepas Swamp through the reintroduction of season Mississippi River inflow. Here’s what we wrote to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, in support of the West Maurepas Freshwater Diversion project:

Dear Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority members,

The undersigned groups appreciate the opportunity to share our supporting comments on the River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp Project, submitted by the State of Louisiana for RESTORE Council consideration for the first Funded Priorities List of the RESTORE Pot 2 Council-selected projects.

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

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

Such is the case with the River Reintroduction into the Maurepas Swamp Project.

The River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp Project has long been discussed as an important coastal restoration project: it was featured as a key restoration project in the 1998 “Coast 2050” plan, was further developed in the Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) program with EPA as its sponsor, was included in the LCA (Louisiana Coastal Area) Study (WRDA 2007) and the Louisiana 2007 Coastal Master Plan, and is currently included in Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan (named the “West Maurepas Diversion”).

This project would benefit the western Maurepas swamps, the landbridge between Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain and the LaBranche wetlands. In addition, this project, in conjunction with the Central Wetlands diversions, will influence the Biloxi Marsh area.

Dominated by bald cypress and water tupelo trees, this swamp complex is one of the largest forested wetlands in the nation. Levees constructed along the river and the closure of Bayou Manchac have isolated the area from spring floods and the vital fresh water, nutrients and sediments that once enhanced the swamp. This isolation has led to a decrease in swamp elevation, that coupled with rising salinities throughout the Pontchartrain Basin have left the swamp in a state of rapid decline – trees are dying and young trees are not regenerating. The River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp Project will reconnect the swamps to the river, preventing further loss and the conversion to open water, as well as helping to temper rising salinities throughout the entire Pontchartrain Basin.

Applying funds to the project now, toward completion of the remaining engineering, design, and permitting, will finally take the River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp Project to a construction-ready status. And, given its development history, this project would seem a perfect candidate for CPRA to conduct in collaboration with EPA, with some assistance from Corps of Engineers regulatory and restoration teams.

In conclusion, the 2012 Coastal Master Plan data demonstrated that the swamp could be completely lost in a mere two decades. Due to the urgency of getting this project constructed and operating, the below signatories commend Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority for submitting, and we urge the RESTORE Council to select this project for funding.

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Biloxi Marsh Oyster Reef Restoration Project

| Posted by lbourg in Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

Louisiana recently proposed 5 projects to be funded by the initial round of funding from the RESTORE Act.  The Biloxi Marsh Oyster Reef Restoration  project, also known as the Biloxi Marsh Living Shoreline project, will construct an oyster barrier reef along the southern and eastern shores of the Biloxi Marsh. This reef will provide a natural protective barrier to reduce the damaging effects of storm surges and provide wave attenuation. Here’s what we wrote to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, in support of the Biloxi Marsh Oyster Reef Restoration project:

Dear Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority members,

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

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

Most of the necessary restoration actions to be undertaken in Louisiana are already fully authorized under the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007, were unanimously approved by the Louisiana legislature in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, enjoy broad public support, and have been vetted by scientists and lawmakers for many years. In the case of the Biloxi Marsh Oyster Reef Project, it has a completed Programmatic EIS and a signed Chief’s Report from the Corps of Engineers.

The Biloxi Marsh platform is relatively stable and enjoys a fairly low rate of subsidence; however, erosion on the marsh edge by wave action has resulted in significant loss of this wetlands habitat over time. Construction of an oyster barrier reef along the southern and eastern shores of the Biloxi Marsh will provide a natural protective barrier to reduce the damaging effects of storm surges and provide wave attenuation. In addition to providing protection against waves, oyster reefs also provide a myriad of ecosystem services including water quality enhancement and benefits to fish populations in both Breton Sound and Mississippi Sound.

Reestablishment of vertical oyster reefs in Biloxi Marsh, in conjunction with the reintroduction of small amounts of river water (River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp, Central Wetlands diversions), will help slow marsh deterioration. Additionally, once established, unlike rock and other materials, these reefs are naturally self-maintaining.

Our groups support the development of the Biloxi Marsh Oyster Reef Project—and the concept of living shorelines in general—and commend the selection of this important “line of defense” by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. We look forward to the construction of this project within the next few years as funding becomes available.

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Golden Triangle Marsh Creation Project

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

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

Dear Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority members,

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

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

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

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

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

 

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West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment & Stabilization Project

December 3, 2014 | Posted by lbourg in Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

“Louisiana recently proposed five projects to be funded by the initial round of funding from the RESTORE ActWest Grand Terre Beach Nourishment & Stabilization Project is part of the larger “Barataria Pass to Sandy Point Barrier Island Restoration,” a project we believe is critical to the Louisiana coast and to the whole Gulf Coast. Here’s what we wrote to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, in support of the West Grand Terre project:”

Dear Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority members,

The undersigned groups appreciate this opportunity to share our collective supporting comments on the West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment and Stabilization Project, submitted by the State of Louisiana for RESTORE Council consideration for the first Funded Priorities List of the RESTORE Pot 2 Council-selected projects.

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

West Grand Terre Barrier Island is part of the barrier island chain separating the productive and economically important Barataria Bay estuary from the Gulf of Mexico. These islands provide habitat for migratory birds, wildlife, and fish. They also serve as the first line of defense in protecting nearby coastal communities from devastating storm surge as well as protecting the interior coastal habitats of Barataria Bay, which includes bottomland hardwood forests, cypress swamps, marshes ranging from fresh to saltwater, from high energy waves and saltwater intrusion. However, increasing tidal forces caused by ever-growing interior bays, canals, navigation channels, subsidence, wave action and sea level rise have all attributed to the erosion and retreat of these barrier islands. This erosion has led to loss of the island and back marsh habitats and threatened the entire interior Barataria Bay estuarine ecosystem.

The West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment and Marsh Stabilization Project provides the Council with an opportunity to fund one project within a larger effort to restore the Barataria Basin Barrier Shoreline. Other reaches of the shoreline have been or will be funded through state surplus funds, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA), Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). Together these individual projects will re-establish 2 barrier shorelines critical for protecting nearby communities, will restore important migratory and shore bird habitat and will improve the ecosystem function of the barrier island system, preventing the wholesale loss of the lower Barataria Bay estuary.

Our groups support the development of the West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment and Marsh Stabilization Project. We commend the selection of this important segment of the Barataria Bay Barrier Shoreline by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. We look forward to the construction of this project within the next few years as funding becomes available.

 

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RESTORE Council Staff Brave the Cold to visit the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle

November 20, 2014 | Posted by lbourg in Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

By Samantha Carter, Restore the Mississippi River Delta, National Wildlife Federation

Wind.  Rain.  Record-setting lows.  None of that stopped community members and conservation groups from welcoming members of a federal restoration council to a potential project site in the Lower Ninth Ward last Thursday morning.  Members of the MRGO Must Go Coalition met with Executive Director Justin Ehrenwerth and Environmental Compliance Director John Ettinger of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council atphoto 4 the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle platform in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.  Joined by representatives from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the City of New Orleans Office of Coastal and Environmental Affairs, we had a robust discussion about the future of restoration in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) ecosystem area.

The platform at the end of Caffin Avenue overlooks a 400 acre “ghost” swamp, a remnant of a dense freshwater cypress tupelo forest that existed in the city boundaries until roughly 50 years ago.  Saltwater intrusion, caused by the construction of the MRGO in the 1960s, killed the cypress swamp in the Lower 9th Ward and destroyed tens of thousands of acres of wetlands that once protected the Greater New Orleans area. The MRGO channel and the loss of the surrounding wetlands are attributed to the catastrophic flooding that occurred in the Lower Ninth Ward and surrounding communities during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle provides a unique opportunity for highly visible coastal restoration work. Only five miles from the French Quarter, the platform already attracts Orleans Parish locals and tourists alike who can learn about the history of the swamp and see an example of the coastal land loss problems that extend throughout southern Louisiana. If the project is funded and constructed, reintroducing Mississippi River sediment and freshwater into the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle could return the conditions in the area to a place where cypress swamp photo 2can once again survive. In addition to restoring ecology and increasing quality of life for residents, restoration work in this location would allow the public easy access to see the State’s Coastal Master Plan in action and potentially RESTORE Act restoration funds at work.

Discussions with the MRGO coalition and the RESTORE Council staff focused on this possibility and the process by which restoration projects are going to be chosen.  The frigid weather kept the site visit short, but conversations continued in the warmth of the Greater Little Zion Baptist Church just a few minutes away. The RESTORE Council stressed the importance of coordination between different funding streams and leveraging completed work, such the programmatic EIS already done by the US Army Corps of Engineers for the MRGO ecosystem restoration area.  MRGO Must Go coalition members shared their passion and vision for restoration and why they are engaged in the effort to see the MRGO ecosystem restored.  There are already plans to revisit the platform together on a sunnier day and take a flight over the MRGO ecosystem.

Interested in visiting the platform and learning more?  Check out http://www.restorethebayou.org/.

 

 

 

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