Archive for Hurricane Katrina
By Audrey Payne, Environmental Defense Fund
To mark the beginning of the 2012 hurricane season on June 1, the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign will launch a social media event to bring awareness to the importance of storm protection and wetland restoration as a line of defense against storm surge.
With another storm season upon us, it’s hard not to think about the possibility of another destructive storm — like Hurricane Katrina or Rita — sweeping across the delta or the Gulf Coast. We should be aware of and prepared for another damaging storm, but it is also important to appreciate the coastline’s ability to provide natural protection from hurricanes. For example, healthy coastal wetlands can provide substantial protection by absorbing storm surge and flooding.
Unfortunately, the wetlands surrounding the Mississippi River Delta are disappearing, and much of what remains is severely degraded — a direct result of manmade measures that have isolated the sediment and fresh water that once built and replenished the rich coastal marshes, swamps and barrier islands.
If and when strong hurricanes come into the gulf, this wetland loss means there is much less protection for coastal communities. We saw how land loss contributed to the damage caused by Katrina and Rita, and it would serve us well to learn from the past and protect our natural storm barriers: coastal wetlands. We must push for wetland protection and restoration in order to protect coastal Louisiana from another horrific disaster.
Please show your support as we work to promote policy and science that will restore and protect Louisiana’s wetlands. “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to show your support and to find out more about what we are working on this hurricane season.No Comments
This post was originally published on the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Promise blog.
By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation’s Coastal Louisiana Organizer in New Orleans
What would you do if, in one day, you lost everything? I’m not just talking about your personal possessions; I’m talking about your entire community — your church, your grocery store, your school. The folks you meet in the video below, Warrenetta Banks and John Taylor, have lived out this scenario every day since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 and have chosen to respond with passion and dedication to recovery — advocating for smart, green urban planning on one side of the levee and a healthy wetland ecosystem on the other side of the levee.
Warrenetta and John are both lifelong residents of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. In the years since the catastrophic flooding, they’ve helped their community recover to be one of the “greenest” in the nation — solar panels, community gardens, and LEED certified homes are typical encounters as you walk down the street. That’s on one side of the levee.
Residents like Warrenetta and John understand all too well that the wetland ecosystem on the other side of the levee is critical to their future and safety. Healthy wetlands serve as a buffer to storm surges and winds and help the levees do their job to protect communities. National Wildlife Federation is one organization working closely with the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (where Warrenetta and John work) to plan and gain funding for restoration of the 400-acre cypress swamp bordering the community (featured in the video) as well as the entire 58,000 acres wetland ecosystem the swamp is connected to, which once buffered much of the Greater New Orleans area from storms and provided important wildlife habitat.
Without healthy wetlands, coastal communities like the Lower Ninth Ward remain very vulnerable to disasters. Urgent funding is needed for restoration. The RESTORE Act, legislation now making its way through the U.S. Congress, will use a portion of Clean Water Act penalties from the BP disaster to fund projects that will restore Gulf Coast ecosystems, including wetlands that protect communities and provide critical habitat for gulf wildlife. Right now, you can make a difference in the future of the Gulf Coast. Learn more about the RESTORE Act and share your voice!No Comments
(March 7, 2012 — New Orleans) On March 2, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the November 2009 landmark decision that found the Army Corps liable for catastrophic flooding in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish during Hurricane Katrina due to the grossly negligent management of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). In 2009, Judge Stanwood Duval ruled that the dangerous condition of the shipping channel was clearly acknowledged by the Corps for decades, but the Corps chose not to take a course of action to remedy the ongoing destruction and degradation of the protective wetlands. The MRGO impacted over 700,000 acres of coastal wetlands and waterways. These wetlands once buffered the Greater New Orleans area from storm surge.
This second ruling reaffirms the direct linkage of the MRGO to the deadly destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Urgent restitution for all impacted by Corps negligence and restoration of the MRGO ecosystem is imperative. Still, the federal government is expected to continue to appeal, further delaying resolution.
“Nearly seven years have passed since Hurricane Katrina. It’s high time for the federal government to step-up to the plate by compensating those affected and by funding MRGO restoration,” said Dr. John Lopez of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.
Although the closure of the shipping channel was long-advocated by environmental and community groups, and even though the funneling effect of the MRGO was predicted by storm surge researchers, it took the drowning of entire communities to achieve congressional action for MRGO closure and restoration planning.
Restoration planning is ongoing. Both the Corps’ draft MRGO ecosystem restoration plan and the State of Louisiana’s draft 2012 Coastal Master Plan call for upwards of $5 billion in restoration projects in the area impacted by the channel. The need for funding prevents implementation of this immensely important restoration effort. Settling this case could provide a major source of those funds.
“As an advocate for both the environment and reduction of flood risk, I believe the Court of Appeals decision will push government engineers to look long and hard at how other channels similar to the MRGO along the Gulf Coast increase risk and damage the environment. More importantly, we need to fix them before the next catastrophe,” said Dr.Paul Kemp, Vice President at National Audubon Society and a member of Team Louisiana.
Statement supported by: American Rivers, CAWIC, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Global Green-USA, Gulf Restoration Network, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Levees.org, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Lower Ninth Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, MQVN Community Development Corporation, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club – Delta Chapter, Tierra Resources, LLC, and St. Bernard Parish Government.No Comments
This is the second post of our Voices of the Delta series.
Name: Keith Blomstrom
Occupation: President of the Minnesota Conservation Federation
Why are the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast important to Minnesota?
Minnesota is linked to the gulf in many ways. The Mississippi River starts in Minnesota — its headwaters are located in Itasca State Park, near Bemidji, Minn. — so the river itself means a great deal to us. Some of the beneficial sediment that travels to the delta comes from Minnesota, but at the same time, our farms and cities are responsible for pollution traveling downriver as well. As an acknowledgment of our commitment to the river, the state of Minnesota and the Environmental Protection Agency have recently partnered with farmers and others to clean up water draining into the gulf.
Additionally, our waterfowl winter in the gulf — all total, 75 percent of our continent’s waterfowl pass through the region. The Minnesota state bird, the Common Loon, spends two to three years maturing in the gulf. To Minnesotans, this bird represents wilderness, and it also links us to the Mississippi River Delta.
What does the RESTORE Act mean to you personally?
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I visited a fish camp owned by some friends in Montegut, La., and I saw firsthand the devastation and problems caused by the loss of wetlands. The place we stayed was on 10-foot poles. During the storms, the tidal surge there was 8 feet. Anything that wasn’t higher than that was destroyed. We were 6 miles from the gulf, but the canal was still full of saltwater with bull sharks, stingrays and other saltwater creatures swimming everywhere.
The oil spill further devastated the area, killing the plants that hold together the soil, killing wildlife and hurting the fishing industry. It will take many years for the ecosystem to recover. But with the RESTORE Act, we have the chance to make a down payment on restoration, to help build a better future for the Gulf Coast and for our country.No Comments
By Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund
On Nov. 10, the City of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish broke ground on the important and innovative $10 million Central Wetlands Assimilation Project. On hand for the ceremony were New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro, members of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board and approximately 75 others representing community organizations, environmental non-profits and other interested parties. All agree the project is a critical first step towards restoring the entire Central Wetlands Unit, mitigating historical impacts of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) channel, improving fish and wildlife habitat, and creating new jobs in restoration and ecotourism.
The Central Wetlands Assimilation Project is a vital step to restore impacted wetlands in the Central Wetlands Unit, a 30,000-acre area east of downtown New Orleans, containing open water that was once a thriving cypress forest just over the levee from urban communities like the Lower 9th Ward and Chalmette.
However, in the early 1960s, construction of the MRGO shipping channel negatively impacted and dramatically altered hundreds of thousands of acres of coastal ecosystem surrounding the Greater New Orleans area including the Central Wetlands. The MRGO inundated the area with saltwater, killing the cypress trees in the Central Wetlands and leaving behind open water. In 2005, the lack of a coastal wetland buffer contributed to catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina, worsening the damage it caused in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish.
The Central Wetlands Assimilation Project will provide fresh water and nutrients needed to reduce salinity and encourage plant growth—by redirecting and reusing treated wastewater and effluent from the East Bank Sewage Treatment Plant into the area—rather than discarding all of it into the Mississippi River. Restoring freshwater flows and taking maximum advantage of the resources available serves as a model for all coastal Louisiana restoration efforts.
The Central Wetlands Assimilation Project is also an important first step to showing that environmental restoration equals economic restoration, creating recreation opportunities, improving habitat and creating new jobs. In fact, restoring the entire Central Wetlands Unit has the potential to create 680 direct and indirect restoration related jobs, according to a study by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
- EDF’s press release on the groundbreaking event
- New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial: Restoring the Central Wetlands to repair an important storm shield
- Get involved: MRGO Must Go Coalition
By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation
Nickelodeon's "The Big Help" teamed up with National Wildlife Federation (NWF) for Earth Day 2011 to spotlight outstanding students making a difference in their communities through environmental stewardship. Sure enough, the search for awesome kids ended in St. Bernard Parish, where students in Chalmette High School's Leadership Initiative have planted over 50,000 cypress trees since Hurricane Katrina. The students, who experienced first-hand the massive destruction of Katrina and the BP oil disaster, are very much aware of the importance of a healthy environment and are happy to get dirty and help restore their wetlands, protect their levees and provide wildlife habitat through the planting program.
The stars of Nickelodeon's Victorious were on hand to give the students a thrill and lead a day of filming and fun. Footage highlighting student efforts and explaining the plight of the Louisiana wetlands played throughout Earth Day on Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon also donated $25,000 to St. Bernard Parish Schools to support the Leadership Initiative. Check out photos from the day here.
NWF's Amanda Moore worked with Nickelodeon and St. Bernard Parish Schools on the shoot. "We were so glad to share the efforts of students in St. Bernard with kids across the nation," said Amanda. "Having experienced so much loss and destruction in the last few years, the students have reacted with an eagerness to help their community recover and restore the coast. They have an amazing perspective and are an inspiration."
Watch the video below about the day from our friends at Nickelodeon.
New Orleans Ranked First in Decade-Long Population Loss Due to Natural Disasters, Not Economic DeclineJanuary 31, 2011 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Job Creation
Guest post by Seyi Fayanju, Environmental Defense Fund
Seyi works on the coastal Louisiana restoration project at Environmental Defense Fund. He is a contributor to EDF’s Restoration and Resilience blog, in which he writes about the links between hazard mitigation, environmental rehabilitation, and economic recovery in the Mississippi River Delta.
Between 2000 and 2009, New Orleans lost more than a quarter of its residents, outpacing Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and other struggling “Rust Belt” cities in its pace of population loss. This decline was largely attributable to the twin disasters of 2005: Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, and the catastrophic levee failures that occurred soon after. While the storm forced the temporary evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people, it was the floods afterwards that kept many New Orleanians from returning to their homes. The Big Easy has rebounded in a big way since 2005, but the population of Louisiana’s largest city remains well-below its pre-Katrina figure.
What will be needed to help New Orleans on the path to demographic recovery? The answer could lie in wetland rehabilitation and hazard mitigation. Along with stronger levee protection, New Orleans would benefit from increased investment in complementary forms of flood and storm protection. The restoration of area wetlands and the elevation of homes and commercial structures would provide additional protection for the residents of New Orleans, and create jobs for workers throughout the Mississippi River Delta. Implementation of these recommendations could help New Orleans and other communities in coastal Louisiana to flourish in the years to come.
You can read Seyi's in-depth analysis of New Orleans' population loss on EDF's Restoration and Resilience blog.1 Comment
Update to our previous post: The 60-day public comment period is open for the Army Corps of Engineers' Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) Draft Restoration Plan. The restoration of the ecosystem along the MRGO will help to protect the City of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish by providing a coastal buffer to storm surge and waves. In addition, restoration will increase coastal resiliency to subsidence and sea level rise and keep our estuaries healthy and productive.
The public voice is critical for both a strong plan and implementation funding. The Corps and Congress need to hear from you to ensure a healthy and resilient coastal buffer between the New Orleans area and the Gulf of Mexico. Through careful review, experts and community leaders in the MRGO Must Go Coalition, a group of 17 environmental and community organizations, have developed recommendations for the Draft Feasibility Report. Please send in a comment and help protect New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish by visiting their website.
Since its construction, the MRGO has impacted over 600,000 acres of coastal ecosystems surrounding New Orleans and has destroyed over 27,000 acres of wetlands. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina underscored the gravity of the MRGO impact on wetlands and public safety when storm waves generated in Lake Borgne regenerated in the MRGO channel and destroyed levees while the surge still was rising, wiping out communities along the MRGO. Now, under direction from Congress, the Army Corps has developed a comprehensive plan to repair coastal damage caused by the channel.
The public comment period is scheduled to end mid-February.No Comments
By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation
The Army Corps of Engineers is set to release the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) Ecosystem Restoration Plan Draft Feasibility Report this Friday, December 17, officially opening the 45-day public comment period. The release marks an important and long-awaited step toward community protection and large-scale coastal restoration for the Greater New Orleans region.
The extensive flooding of the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish during Hurricane Katrina was directly attributable to the MRGO, a deep draft shipping channel that destroyed tens of thousands of acres of wetlands and cypress swamps surrounding New Orleans, leaving communities exposed to storm surge. In the wake of the tragedy, Congress directed the Corps to develop a plan to restore the areas affected by the channel.
Years behind deadline, this vital plan (the largest wetland restoration plan in U.S. history) is ready for review. The public voice is critical for both a strong restoration plan and implementation funding. The Corps and Congress need to hear from you to ensure a healthy and resilient coastal buffer between the New Orleans area and the Gulf of Mexico.
The MRGO Must Go Coalition – a group of 17 environmental and community organizations – will serve as a resource for the public comment period by providing insight and recommendations for the Draft Feasibility Report. Sign up now at www.MRGOmustGO.org to receive information and email updates about the public comments process as well as the Coalition's formal recommendations.1 Comment
Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Bayou Grace Community Services has been working to address the most critical and immediate environmental needs of residents of Lower Terrebonne Parish, La. Coastal land loss is a daily reality for those living in these communities. For many, land loss means living in a constant state of recovery and anticipating the next flood, be it from a tropical storm, hurricane, or even high tides.
Through its Environmental Outreach program, Bayou Grace is working to educate the nation about how land loss is not inevitable. To document the countless reasons why coastal Louisiana is worth saving, and raise awareness to get people talking about the need for coastal restoration and protection, Bayou Grace recently launched a photo project asking people “Why should we save Coastal Louisiana?”.
Bayou Grace's goal is to reach out to both the local community and the nation as well.