Archive for Hurricanes
It's been exactly 1,000 days since the BP-operated oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, gushing millions of barrels of crude oil into a body of water that supports countless ecosystems and economies.
Below is a timeline of major events that have occurred in the last 1,000 days.
- Restorethegulf.org, "First oiled bird is recovered."
- Restorethegulf.org, "NOAA Expands Fishing Closed Area in Gulf of Mexico."
- The New York Times, "Effects of Spill Spread as Tar Balls Are Found."
- TIME, "100 Days of the BP Spill: A Timeline."
- The White House, "Executive Order 13554–Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force."
- Bloomberg, "BP Oil Still Ashore One Year After End of Gulf Spill."
- PNAS, "Impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on a deep-water coral community in the Gulf of Mexico."
- University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, "Study confirms oil from Deepwater Horizon disaster entered food chain in the Gulf of Mexico."
- The Times-Picayune, "About 565,000 pounds of oiled material from Deepwater Horizon stirred up by Hurricane Isaac."
- The New York Times, "BP Will Plead Guilty and Pay Over $4 Billion."
- Georgia Tech Biology, "Gulf of Mexico Clean-Up Makes 2010 Spill 52-Times More Toxic."
- University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, "UMiami scientists partner with NOAA, Stanford and U of N Texas to study post spill fish toxicology."
- NOAA Fisheries Service, "2010-2013 Cetacean Unusual Mortality Event in Northern Gulf of Mexico."
- The Times-Picayune, "Transocean to pay $1.4 billion to settle pollution, safety violations in Gulf oil spill."
By Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund
If anyone can sympathize with the Northeast as it recovers from Hurricane Sandy, it’s the residents of New Orleans. I found this out firsthand on recent trip to Louisiana.
While Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeast, I was in South Louisiana with Environmental Defense Fund’s Creative Director, Nicole Possin, working on a video about wetlands restoration in the Mississippi River Delta. We’d planned the trip long before we knew about Sandy, and the irony of being in Louisiana while a hurricane hit the Northeast was not lost on us. I live in Washington, and Nicole lives in Brooklyn and owns a house in Asbury Park, NJ — an area severely hit by the storm. In Louisiana, it was in the 70s and sunny, making it hard to believe a tropical storm was hitting the East Coast. Needless to say, we were glued to the news.
As we talked with people throughout the state, we were met with greetings of sympathy, understanding and encouragement for us and our neighbors back home. “We’ve been through this before, and you’re going to get through it, too” was a common sentiment. “Rebuilding is going to take time, but as long as you have the people you love nearby, it will be OK” was another. It was comforting and touching to hear such kind words from strangers, especially from people who have been through numerous natural disasters.
Louisianans have experienced more than their fair share of hurricanes, including Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, Lee and most recently, Isaac. We met with people who’d lost their homes in those storms — sometimes not once, but twice. In many parts of New Orleans and south Louisiana, people are still rebuilding their houses, businesses and communities — years later.
Yet despite all this, there is a strong sense of hope and resiliency among the people of South Louisiana.
We took to the streets with our camera and helped local residents send messages of empathy and encouragement to the people of the Northeast. The result was this video, “Postcards from New Orleans: Hope for the Northeast.” Please share it with others and feel free to leave your own message in the comments section below. This video is the first in a series, so please check back for future installments.
- Postcards from New Orleans: A video for the Northeast (Environmental Defense Fund)
This story was originally published by the National Wildlife Federation.
By Craig Guillot, National Wildlife Federation
When Hurricane Isaac struck Louisiana on the seven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, its winds and tidal surge caused four deaths and at least $1.5 billion in insured damages. For many residents around the Mississippi River Delta, Isaac brought back memories of two recent disasters to hit the coast — Katrina and the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. Before the storm even hit land, residents in some coastal communities noticed a rise in the number of tar balls washing ashore. Officials later discovered moderate amounts of tar balls and weathered oil in coastal Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Experts say scenes like this could be normal for decades to come and that Louisiana’s coast will require constant monitoring and a long-term plan for restoration. Despite advertising campaigns to the contrary, the region is still reeling from the Gulf oil disaster more than two years after the blow out of BP’s Macondo well.
Tar balls and oil reappears in the Mississippi River Delta
Even before Hurricane Isaac hit the coast, residents in communities from Grand Isle, La., to as far east as Gulf Shores, Ala., started to report an increase in tar balls washing ashore as the Gulf began to churn. Tar balls, sheen and various remnants of weathered oil were found following the storm in many of those areas including the pristine shorelines of Ship Island in Mississippi.
A National Wildlife Federation (NWF) team surveyed the waters and beaches near Port Fourchon, Elmer’s Island and Grand Isle on September 6 to survey the waters and beaches. While they did not find any evidence of significant oiling, they did find moderate amounts of tar balls on the beaches in Grand Isle. Tar balls have been a reality on Louisiana's coast for decades but Grand Isle residents say what was left on the beaches after Isaac was "a lot more than normal."
NWF Staff Scientist Alisha Renfro, Ph.D., said a number of tropical storms and weather events have washed up tar balls since the start of the 2010 disaster.
“They continue to wash up because there’s a lot of weathered oil still out there, either just offshore or just beneath the surface of the sand,” Renfro said.
NWF also made a trip out to Myrtle Grove, La., on September 7 to survey the damage that Isaac inflicted on the marsh. The eye of the storm first made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River and passed over some of the state's most fragile marshes before making a second landfall near Port Fourchon.
David Muth, Louisiana state director for NWF, said the team found evidence of localized marsh destruction. On his survey, Muth noticed hundreds of large chunks of marsh that had broken away and been deposited in open water.
“Marsh break-up occurred in areas that have a history of rapid marsh loss in Louisiana, near Myrtle Grove. Healthier marshes to the south showed no signs of break-up. The findings illustrate the importance of quickly building the authorized Myrtle Grove Sediment Diversion, which will build new marsh in this vital area.”
The NWF team also found three oiled pelicans near Myrtle Grove. A number of media outlets reported oiled birds and wildlife following the storm. While there is no connection between these findings and the Macondo disaster, Muth said, “This is further evidence that we have not yet completely learned the lessons of the Gulf oil disaster.
"Oil could be here for decades."
Even 23 years after the Exxon-Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, oil can still be found beneath the surface. Biologists say that "sub-lethal" effects to fisheries could linger in the Gulf of Mexico for years to come.
"It will probably be an issue for a long time, especially as many people conjecture that there are still tar mats laying on the bottom that you can't easily clean up," Muth said.
In April 2012, two years after oil started pouring into the Gulf, an NWF team found heavy oil still sitting just beneath the surface on small islands in Barataria Bay and Bay Jimmy. On one island, the oil was so abundant that it oozed to the surface under each foot step. Renfro said while oil may remain below the surface during the winter, it can emerge in the spring and summer when the heat softens it up and liquefies it. Many biologists believe that reappearing oil could be an annual occurrence in the summer months.
If there’s any good news, it’s that when oil comes to the surface, sunlight and weathering can help further break it down.
“Photo-oxidation from the sunlight helps break down that material even more. It also helps reveal it so that cleanup crews can get it. Hopefully we’ll have less and less over time,” Renfro said.
Last week, Louisiana State University ran lab tests for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and determined that the oil found on Grand Isle and Elmer's Island matched the footprint for the oil spilled from BP's Macondo well. BP later confirmed that the oil was from the well and that they would dispatch workers to clean it up.
Ed Overton, Ph.D., professor emeritus with the Department of Environmental Sciences at Louisiana State University, said that while oil is still out there, it is hard to tell exactly how much. Overton did say that storms can serve as “Mother Nature’s hurricane” in helping break down the oil. He believes that oil will degrade faster on the Gulf Coast than it did in Prince William Sound because of the geography of the shore.
“Our shoreline erodes and moves around more quickly. The problem with sandy beaches is that once it gets buried, you just don’t know where it is. We’ll likely see it for years but not at the level we saw in 2010,” Overton said.
Mississippi River Delta wetlands remain in a precarious state
Biologists and coastal restoration advocates say while the oil is an issue, it is only one part of a number of problems eating away at Louisiana’s wetlands. Oil has attacked the roots of plants and contributed to the death of marsh grass and mangroves but the encasement of the Mississippi River and saltwater intrusion has had a destructive impact for decades. In some areas of the marsh, the oil appears to have been the final straw.
Renfro also surveyed the Mississippi River by air on September 7 and saw heavily damaged patches of marsh between Belle Chase and Point a la Hache. She and Muth said there were clear differences in how untouched marshes fared compared to those that were heavily oiled during the summer of 2010.
“Pelican Island doesn’t look good at all. The mangrove has just been all brown and dead. It saw heavy oiling in 2010,” Muth said.
While marshes have always endured the winds and surges of hurricanes, Muth said he’s seen clear differences in how a healthy marsh can recover quickly. Further south in “healthier” areas of marsh, Muth said some parts looked almost invigorated by the storm where natural processes can deposit new layers of clay and sediment.
Renfro said the Wax Lake Delta is a clear example of how a thriving marsh can recover from a storm. After Hurricane Rita struck the area in 2005, damage to these wetlands was observed in the aftermath of the storm, but there was not a significant lasting impact. The Wax Lake Delta has been a rare success story in coastal restoration because it is fed sediment by the Atchafalaya River.
“The steady supply of mineral-rich sediments from the river help make these wetlands more resilient and allow them to recover quickly when damaged,” Renfro said.
NWF’s Greater New Orleans Program Manager Amanda Moore said it all underlines why the Gulf Coast needs a long-term comprehensive strategy for coastal restoration. NWF was instrumental in helping create and push for the passage of the RESTORE Act, a bill that ensures 80 percent of the fines and penalties from the Gulf oil disaster will be dedicated to Gulf Coast restoration.
Moore said its passage has been a monumental victory for the coast and that funding in the near future should help move along big coastal restoration projects. Ongoing monitoring of the impacts of the Gulf oil disaster will be needed to ensure a sound recovery.
“We knew that when the disaster happened, we'd be dealing with this for years to come. We need to keep vigilant and watching it because we could be dealing with this for a long time,” Moore said.No Comments
By Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund
In the wake of Hurricane Isaac, 12 miles of Louisiana coastline have been closed because of newly washed up tar balls. Though the oil still must be analyzed, many – including BP – say that these tar balls could be leftovers from the 2010 BP oil disaster. (Update: Tests taken today confirm that the oil is from the 2010 BP spill)
At the same time, the Department of Justice has filed a memo blasting BP and underscoring the federal case that BP may be held grossly negligent in its handling of the Macondo well — a designation that could have tremendous impact on the amount of RESTORE Act dollars that flow back to the gulf.
How many more stories do we need to read about oil washing ashore before BP steps up to the plate and makes things right? How many more beaches need to be closed before BP stops stalling and makes the gulf whole again?
BP must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law for their carelessness. The Gulf Coast’s ecosystems and economies depend on it. BP also needs to reach a settlement as soon as possible. The sooner a settlement happens, the sooner restoration can begin.
Despite what BP might want you to believe in its advertisements, the Gulf Coast is still hurting. The gulf environment and the people and businesses that depend on it are still reeling from the effects of the spill. And while it will take years to understand the full extent of the spill’s damage, we do know that the oil continues to show up on beaches in the form of tar balls and mats, has severely impacted bird nesting habitat, has negatively affected endangered sea turtles, is probably at least partly responsible for a spate of dolphin deaths, sped marsh erosion in heavily impacted areas and that dispersants used to break up the oil have harmed plankton – a key link in the ocean’s food web.
The communities, businesses and wildlife of the Gulf Coast depend on a healthy environment for survival. Environmental restoration also provides economic restoration. By creating jobs and adding value throughout coastal economies, the same wetlands that protect coastal communities can also sustain them. The sooner a settlement can be reached, the sooner restoration funds can be made available and the sooner businesses and communities can get back on their feet and start recovering.
BP’s job in the gulf is not finished. It is time for BP to stop stalling and make the gulf whole again. For a region that has suffered so much, it’s the right thing to do.
By David Muth, Louisiana State Director, National Wildlife Federation
Now that Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan is law, it is critical that the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) moves the process forward as quickly as possible. While the plan lays out a series of projects for over its fifty-year timeframe, the actual sequence of projects has not yet been completely planned. The sooner CPRA can finalize this project list and timeline, the sooner vital construction and restoration can begin.
Several things are necessary for creating that list of projects. First is to carry out continued modeling to measure how projects and suites of projects will interact with one another. One example is looking at how a mid-Barataria 50,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) sediment diversion will interact with marsh creation projects in the middle Barataria Basin and with a ring levee and community resiliency measures for the nearby town of Lafitte.
Second is to work out how funding streams can be most effectively sequenced to begin building out the projects identified in the list. This is especially critical with Clean Water Act penalty funding to be distributed under the RESTORE Act and the separate Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process. These funding sources, resulting from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, could become available at almost any time over the next few years.
Third is to move quickly to implement nonstructural hurricane risk reduction measures. Nonstructural storm protection measures are those that build community resiliency by means other than “structural” methods such as levees, floodwalls and floodgates. They include raising structures and homes up out of danger, hardening infrastructure and assisting with voluntary relocation. Unfortunately, the suite of existing nonstructural programs is reactive: invoked after, but not before, a disaster. That has to be changed moving forward.
Another challenge concerns the Chenier Plain in southwest Louisiana. The key to long-term restoration in that area is to find ways to modify the hydrology of the area’s navigation system to prevent the continued influx of sea water into formerly freshwater marshes. Simple on paper, tricky in practice.
At an implementation level, two important capabilities need to be developed for the master plan to move forward. One is to demonstrate the feasibility of long-distance pipeline sediment delivery. Much of the Coastal Master Plan depends upon finding a viable way to move vast volumes of sediment many tens of miles through dredge pipes. We have a great deal of experience with relatively smaller scale projects for both marsh creation and barrier island restoration, but the master plan proposes projects that will be carried out on a much larger scale — moving material over much greater distances than ever before. While there seems to be no technical reason this cannot be done, actually doing it will be important for fine tuning the plan.
Similarly, we need to test and demonstrate a sediment diversion somewhere other than at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The very existence of southeast Louisiana proves that such diversions build land. We have extensive experience cutting artificial distributaries near the mouth of the river and letting them build land – from Cubit’s Gap and a dozen other cuts on the Mississippi below Venice to the Wax Lake Outlet on the lower Atchafalaya River. We also know that crevasses through the man-made levee system prior to 1928 moved vast quantities of sediment into the upper estuaries. But we have never deliberately designed and constructed a controlled sediment diversion, and we will learn a great deal more than modeling can tell us by actually doing it.
All told, the to-do list for Coastal Master Plan implementation seems long, but with RESTORE Act and NRDA fines on the way, we will have the funding to jumpstart restoration. Combine this funding with the proper planning and prioritization, and coastal Louisiana will take several steps closer to a more sustainable future.1 Comment
The Next 50 Years: Climate change and the Coastal Master Plan: “Hope for the best but plan for the worst”July 19, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Coastal Master Plan series, Diversions, Hurricanes, Science
By Dr. Doug Meffert, Executive Director, Audubon Louisiana
Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan takes a realistic and critical examination of the effects of climate change impacts on the future of coastal Louisiana, both in terms of prioritization of restoration projects as well as risk reduction. In its “less optimistic scenario,” the master plan estimates 0.45 meters of sea level rise over the next fifty years. This is in addition to between zero and 25 millimeters per year of land subsidence, with the fragile deltaic plain having the highest rates. The resultant combination of sea level rise and subsidence predicts that relative sea level rise will be more than one meter during the next century in some areas of the Mississippi River Delta. Additionally, this scenario anticipates a 20 percent increase in storm intensity and a 2.5 percent increase in storm frequency for Category 1 hurricanes and greater. As climate change brings more severe storms and rising seas to Louisiana’s coast, it is important to incorporate these predictions into the formulation of the Coastal Master Plan.
This “less optimistic scenario” predicts a very different and more vulnerable coast than we had in the 20th century. The master plan uses this scenario for its predictions for future flooding from a 100-year event and for prioritization of restoration projects, since what is labeled as “less optimistic” in the report could just as accurately be labeled as “increasingly likely.” This scenario is consistent with the recent assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), the findings from the Durban Climate Change Conference in November 2011, and more recently, peer-reviewed articles (Blum and Roberts, 2012; Day et al., 2012). In fact, one of the master plan’s Science and Engineering Board members, Dr. Virginia Burkett, was a coauthor of the IPCC’s 2007 report, which garnered the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for the IPCC.
“Hope for the best but plan for the worst” is the adage adopted by the Coastal Master Plan, and I couldn’t agree more. As it is, there is not enough sediment in the Mississippi River to offset the predicted land loss from relative sea level rise and erosion if we do nothing. This means we need to act now for a future coast that supports the fisheries, birds and other ecological services upon which we depend. We need to plan for a future coast that still provides a natural storm surge buffer for our cities, towns and critical infrastructure. That future coast will just be different than what we’ve known in the past. And that future coast depends on implementing large-scale river diversions with no further delay. We finally have a realistic master plan based on the best science possible. Now, we just need to implement it.
By Meg Sutton, Environmental Defense Fund
Global climate change has induced an increase in global mean sea level with a 3.1 mm/year average rate of increase since 1991. Climate projections indicate a widespread increase of more intense precipitation events, with an associated increased risk of flooding. Similarly, climate scientists also predict an increase in hurricane wind speed and total volume.
The low lying, coastal Mississippi River Delta region is particularly vulnerable to the climate change threats of sea level rise, increased flood risk and more intense hurricanes. The area is additionally plagued by human-induced environmental degradation that has occurred over the past 200-300 years. The region has lost 1,900 square miles of land since the 1930s and is losing the wetland areas that are crucial to the region’s ecosystem function, economy and character.
The numerous threats to the region set up a potential dilemma of competing interests. Should resources and attention be focused on immediate restoration or longer term climate change adaptation? Fortunately, no such choice has to be made. Climate change adaptation and coastal restoration do not constitute a zero sum game. Restoration of coastal Louisiana reduces the vulnerability to the major risks posed by climate change and therefore can be seen as a climate change adaptation strategy.
The global rise in mean sea level — termed eustatic sea level rise — is further complicated in the Mississippi River Delta region by subsidence (sinking land). The sum of the two is referred to as relative sea level rise. The Gulf of Mexico has one of the highest rates of subsidence in the nation due to sediment compaction and the extraction of groundwater, oil and natural gas. These encroaching sea levels increase mean water levels in boundary regions, accelerate coastal erosion and alter the salinity levels of sensitive coastal habitat systems. These factors have contributed to the high rate of land loss in the region.
Restoration of the deltaic system can help stabilize shorelines and reduce the associated risks with rising sea levels. Deltas are formed by the constant inflow of sediment from rivers. However, the Mississippi River Delta has been cut off from this natural process through the construction of extensive levee systems for navigation and flood protection. Through planned sediment diversions, the natural deltaic process can be restored and help increase the resiliency of coastal areas. This will combat the effects of both eustatic sea level rise and subsidence.
The projected increase in the intensity of precipitation events due to global climate change will exacerbate flood risk in the Mississippi River Delta region. Research has shown that coastal wetlands can greatly reduce flooding and storm damage. A one-acre area of wetland can store up to one million gallons of water, providing a significant buffer between flood waters and populated areas. In addition, wetland vegetation acts as a natural flood barrier by reducing the speed of flood waters. Healthy wetlands therefore have the potential to reduce both the volume and speed of floodwaters that reach surrounding areas. Restoration efforts seek to improve the condition of surviving wetlands in the Mississippi River Delta region as well as strategically reestablish historical wetland areas with sediment diversions. The restoration efforts to augment total healthy wetland area in the region will simultaneously reduce flooding risk associated with climate change.
As highlighted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the coastal Mississippi River Delta region is highly vulnerable to hurricanes and their associated storm surge. Climate change is predicted to increase hurricane wind speed and total precipitation, further amplifying this threat. Coastal wetlands have been shown to reduce both wave energy and wave height when storm surge passes through them. These wetland regions introduce a frictional drag that reduces the intensity of waves, and restoration will therefore help protect surrounding regions from storm surge now and into the future.
The restoration of ecosystem function in the Mississippi River Delta would provide significant benefits for both the short and long-term future of this crucial economic and ecologic zone. The overlapping interests of restoration and long-term climate change adaptation serve to strengthen the case for large-scale immediate restoration of the region.
 IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M.Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
 Needelman, B.A., S. Crooks, C.A. Shumway, J.G. Titus, R.Takacs, and J.E. Hawkes. 2012 Restore-Adapt-Mitigate: Responding to Climate Change Through Coastal Habitat Restoration. B.A. Needelman, J. Benoit, S. Bosak, and C. Lyons (eds.). Restore America’s Estuaries, Washington D.C., pp. 1-63. Published by: Restore America’s Estuaries 2012
 Wetlands Protecting Life and Property from Flooding. United States Environmental Protection Agency, May 2006.
 Shepard CC, Crain CM, Beck MW (2011). The Protective Role of Coastal Marshes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. PLoS ONE 6(11): e27374. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027374
By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation
Water. Flashlight. Batteries. Canned food. It’s hurricane season. In coastal Louisiana, we’ll keep a close eye on the weather until November — hoping to dodge each swirling white storm that crops up on the radar.
As the world witnessed in 2005 during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Louisiana is dangerously vulnerable to strong storms. One major reason for our vulnerability is the collapse of coastal wetlands in the Mississippi River Delta in southern Louisiana. Since the 1930s, due in large part to manmade causes, we’ve lost about 1,900 square miles of land from the Louisiana coast – it's like losing the state of Delaware off the nation's map! These coastal wetlands play a critical role in protecting communities by helping buffer them from storm surge, wind and waves.
Here in Louisiana, we are still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which cost nearly 2,000 lives and caused $91 billion in damages. At the same time, we are trying to get ahead of the next storm to prevent another horrific disaster by planning and advocating for coastal protection and restoration. The Louisiana Legislature just unanimously passed the Coastal Master Plan, a comprehensive 50-year plan for restoring our coast and protecting our natural resources. Coastal scientists continue to expand our knowledge and understanding of what is happening to our coast and how best to restore it. Thousands of people — from local school kids to celebrities to international visitors — are learning about the plight of Louisiana's wetlands and getting dirty in marshes planting grasses and trees every year!
Why all the attention? The Mississippi River Delta matters — to all of us. In addition to vital protection from storms, wetlands sustain vital industries like trade and seafood — the delta’s fisheries provide 25% of American seafood. The wetlands also provide wildlife habitat to hundreds of species, including the endangered Kemps Ridley sea turtle and the Piping Plover beach bird. These same wetlands and waterways contribute tens of billions of dollars to our national economy every year and support millions of jobs.
So as we ready ourselves for the 2012 hurricane season, let’s call for restoration — protecting communities and wildlife and sustaining the rich culture of America’s delta. Today, you have a great opportunity to help move restoration from plan to action. Click here to support the RESTORE Act, critical legislation moving through Congress, which will bring BP oil spill penalties back to Gulf Coast states to fund coastal restoration projects like those so badly needed in Louisiana.
We need your voice! Share this post with your friends and family and help us restore the Mississippi River Delta. And LIKE and SHARE this image on Facebook. Doing so will make a difference for hurricane seasons to come.No Comments
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
By David Muth, National Wildlife Federation
On March 21, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) unanimously adopted the revised Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, which lays out a 50-year restoration plan for Louisiana’s coast. The Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign has worked closely with the state in the development of the plan, and many of our recommendations for improving and strengthening the draft were adopted in the final version.
One such recommendation made by our campaign was to create clear paths forward for implementation of the nonstructural hurricane protection program and the design of a lower Mississippi River realignment. The final version of the plan also includes revisions supported by coastal stakeholders during the public review process, including relocating marsh creation or shoreline protection projects to locations that would help buffer vulnerable coastal communities. While these revised projects were not necessarily the best projects for optimizing land creation, they were justified because of the synergies they could provide with nearby protection projects. Even with these changes, 85% of the projects in the final plan were chosen by the Planning Tool to optimize land building in the face of less optimistic sea level rise scenarios.
The final Coastal Master Plan revolutionizes the way Louisiana intends to move toward a sustainable coast. It proposes to spend $3.8 billion to reintroduce 50% of the peak flow of the Mississippi River into the most sediment-starved and deteriorating parts of the delta — a key goal of our campaign. This reintroduction could build up to 300 square miles of new delta over the next 50 years in the face of moderate subsidence and sea level rise. The plan also recommends designing a new navigation system to free up most of the remaining 50% of peak river flow for a new lower river alignment that will build additional new deltaic land. It also dedicates $20 billion toward the creation of over 200 square miles of marsh through sediment pipeline delivery to areas that cannot be reached by riverine reintroduction of sediment.
Additionally, the plan provides for increased hurricane risk reduction for every coastal resident, by building resiliency for coastal communities through nonstructural measures such as elevating buildings, strengthening infrastructure and facilitating voluntary relocation. This fundamental shift away from the old standard of total reliance on levees, floodwalls and floodgates ratifies another fundamental goal of our campaign.
The Coastal Master Plan now goes to the Louisiana Legislature for adoption during the current session, which began on Monday and continues through June 4, 2012. If adopted, we move an important step closer towards implementing the goals of our campaign. Louisiana could become a world leader among vulnerable coastal areas in learning to live with the realities of future climate change and in learning to start living with water and natural processes rather than conducting a futile fight to the death against them.No Comments