Archive for Hurricane Katrina
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.