Archive for Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA)


What does a “record-setting dead zone” mean for Louisiana’s coast?

June 25, 2013 | Posted by Rachel Schott in Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Reports, Science, Seafood, Wildlife

By Rachel Schott, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign

Dead zone. Words that bring images of military exercises or deserted, war-torn areas of land, but certainly not an acceptable description of a region that contains some of the nation’s most vibrant and diverse ecosystems, wildlife and habitats. Right?

The predicted "record-breaking" area of the Gulf of Mexico and coastline that would be affected in this year's dead zone.

Recent studies released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and conducted by Louisiana State University, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, and University of Michigan scientists forecast a “record-setting dead zone” for the Gulf of Mexico this summer. The studies suggest that the 2013 dead zone area could be anywhere between 7,286 and 8,561 square miles, which would be substantially larger than last year’s dead zone of almost 2,900 square miles.

According to NOAA, dead zones are not uncommon for waterways and estuaries, as they have recorded 166 dead zones along United States coastlines. As the Gulf of Mexico is at the receiving end of the country’s largest river system, the Mississippi River’s discharge is one of the main causes of the Gulf dead zone. Unfortunately, a dead zone is exactly what it sounds like: an area normally teeming with wildlife and vegetation is infiltrated by pollutants, fertilizer chemicals and industrial runoff. When the river’s more buoyant fresh water enters the Gulf of Mexico, it lies on top of the denser, saltier water, causing a stratification that isolates the deeper waters from receiving a necessary amount of oxygen.

The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) explains that the influx of these unnatural substances and nutrients results in the overgrowth of algae and marine organisms on the surface of the water. At the end of their life cycle, they sink to the bottom and are decomposed by bacteria, a process that depletes the oxygen supply from the water, making the existence of life nearly impossible. Every type of marine life is affected, from Gulf fish to tiny marine organisms, which are all essential parts of an interdependent ecosystem necessary for maintaining the balance of life in the Gulf of Mexico.

In scientific terms, the low oxygen is known as hypoxia and has severe effects on the future health and growth of ecosystems. TIME Magazine recently reported that the Gulf of Mexico may soon become an “aquatic desert” and attributes the problems to recent weather conditions in the Midwest: heavy rainfall and flooding increases the levels of nutrients and pollutants in the river. All of these compounding problems will contribute to the 2013 possibly record-setting dead zone.

Scientists state that the dead zone would be less severe if a tropical storm were to enter the area, which would mix up the Gulf’s waters and facilitate oxygenation. The irony of this fact is that it leaves Louisiana residents in a less-than-ideal situation.

To read more about the causes and effects of dead zones, check out NOAA’s State of the Coast website: http://stateofthecoast.noaa.gov/hypoxia/dead_zone.html.

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The Next 50 Years: Funding features for the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan

July 17, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Coastal Master Plan series, Congress, Federal Policy, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

By Cynthia Duet, Director of Governmental Relations, National Audubon Society

Louisiana’s recently passed 2012 Coastal Master Plan contains an ambitious mix of risk-reduction and restoration projects spread across the entire Louisiana coastal area. Such ambition does, however, come with a price — costing an estimated $50 billion over 50 years, and so the plan is also frank in its account of the uncertainties and complexities of funding and creating a sustainable coastal Louisiana ecosystem. To reverse generations of massive and ongoing land loss, encroaching sea level rise and a decade of natural and manmade disasters, the funding challenge must be met head on.

The state acknowledges the need to quickly begin the large-scale work laid out in the plan. At the same time, project implementation depends on funding from a myriad of sources. These projects will also be implemented by various actors — some projects by Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), others by local or federal partners. Progress will be tracked through the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Annual Plan, which will identify specific projects, schedules and funding streams.

So now that the plan is passed, does the funding exist to implement the plan?

In recent years, and in brighter economic times, the Louisiana Legislature authorized a generous allocation of state surplus dollars — a total of $790 million between 2007 and 2009 — to accelerate implementation of priority projects for the coast. Additionally, the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP), established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, provided nearly $500 million to the state of Louisiana and its coastal parishes, the bulk of which was obligated and spent on critical protection and restoration projects in fiscal years 2007-2010. These dollars, accompanied by the long-standing Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) dollars (approximately $80 million per year to which the state matches 15%), the Louisiana Coastal Area Program (LCA) dollars and related federal funds through the Water Resources Development Act  of 2007 (WRDA), are the foundation upon which the coastal program has been funded to date.

On the horizon are revenues from the sale of mineral leases and royalty revenue from oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico that have been dedicated to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Trust fund through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Securities Act of 2006 (GOMESA). Though funding from this program has trickled through in modest increments since 2007, larger revenue streams from these royalties will be available in 2017 when “Phase II” of that program begins. Estimates of funding for Louisiana from this source have ranged up to $500 million annually on the high end, but the true figures are nearly impossible to pin down because they are tied to new leasing and drilling activities in the gulf.

As the state continues to ramp up its coastal efforts, bringing more and larger projects to construction, more money is required in the short term to fill the gap between now and 2017, when the GOMESA funding is realized. Some significant recent commitments to funding have come in the form of post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill commitments:

  • On July 6, 2012, the President signed into law the transportation funding bill which contains the RESTORE Act, a landmark piece of legislation that dedicates 80 percent of all Clean Water Act penalties and fines from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to projects in the gulf states for environmental and economic recovery. The settlement has yet to be reached that will ultimately determine the exact value of those dollars to be directed to impacted gulf states, but the range is somewhere between $5 and $21 billion.

For planning purposes, the Coastal Master Plan was crafted using reasonable budget projections and a conservative view of what is likely to be received by the state in the coming decades — a range of between $20 and $50 billion (in present value dollars) over the next 50 years. This range was further defined and annualized, and an estimated $400 million to $1 billion per year was the result.

The Coastal Master Plan emphasizes that funds are not guaranteed and that funding levels are based on the state’s best “educated guess.” Funds will not arrive at once but will be spaced over the next 50 years; and much of the expected funding is tied to CWPPRA (about $80 million per year, requiring a reauthorization in 2019), GOMESA (about $110 million per year after 2017), LCA (about $150 milllion per year), the RESTORE Act and NRDA.

In summary, insufficient funding has been the Achilles’ heel of coastal work for decades. Though this will remain the case for years to come, as the implementation of the large and ambitious 2012 Coastal Master Plan begins to unfold, the necessary elements are finally beginning to come together for a hopeful future. Through continued efforts by the State of Louisiana, its delegation leaders, the U.S. Congress and a bit of urging by our own NGO partners, we can all work together to make the Coastal Master Plan’s vision a reality. 

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The Next 50 Years: Louisiana Coastal Area projects in the master plan

July 12, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Coastal Master Plan series, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, Restoration Projects, Whites Ditch

This is the fourth post in our "The Next 50 Years" Coastal Master Plan series. Check back as we continue diving into the master plan and what it means for the people and environment of the Mississippi River Delta.

By Alisha A. Renfro, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, National Wildlife Federation

To formulate Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan, coastal authorities evaluated nearly 250 restoration projects that had been proposed in previous parish- and state-level restoration plans. This number was then narrowed down by setting a realistically achievable budget, modeling for future environmental conditions and understanding how the implementation of individual projects could help sustain or build land over the next 50 years. Projects included in the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Comprehensive Study were among those considered for inclusion in the master plan, and many of these projects – or similar versions of them – were included in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. By incorporating these projects in the long-term vision of restoration for coastal Louisiana, these projects will be better integrated with others in the master plan. Additionally, inclusion of these LCA projects shows the state’s commitment to their construction and implementation.

The LCA Program was authorized through the 2007 Water Resources Development Act and includes 15 near-term critical restoration projects. As part of the LCA Program, the state of Louisiana and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work together to plan and implement these 15 projects. To date, construction has not begun on any of these projects, and as they near the construction phase, the lack of federal funding in the immediate future threatens to delays them indefinitely. That is, until Congress passed the RESTORE Act in June. Signed into law just last week, the RESTORE Act will ensure that 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines BP and other responsible parties will pay as a result of the 2010 gulf oil spill are dedicated to environmental restoration in the gulf states. In Louisiana, this money will be used to help fund the restoration projects outlined in the master plan.

Of the 15 LCA projects, nine were included in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. But in many cases, the project selected and described in the master plan is a modified version of the original LCA project. This is a result of the analysis conducted in the planning process that indicated that modifications to the project would increase the land it built or maintained. However, it should be noted that the projects described in the master plan are still conceptual, as their exact size and location will be determined through further planning and design. Below is a list of the LCA projects and a brief description of the corresponding project included in the master plan.

The extensive analysis that went into formulating the master plan indicates that the capacity of several of the LCA sediment diversions may need to be scaled up in order to maximize the amount of land they can build and sustain. By including so many LCA projects in the plan, coastal authorities reaffirmed the importance of these critical projects to restoring the coastal Louisiana landscape. Moving away from smaller restoration projects toward larger ecosystem-scale projects will help restore the natural hydrology and mimic the processes that built the Mississippi River Delta, thus creating a more sustainable coastline for the people who call the region home.

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Conservation groups laud funding for restoration efforts from U.S. House

June 1, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Congress, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Media Resources, Restoration Projects

Federal funds will support critical restoration construction projects, jobs in Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Washington, D.C. — June 1, 2012) Today, local and national conservation groups applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for approving $10 million in new funding for critical Louisiana coastal restoration projects.

Passed as an amendment to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, the measure was sponsored by Louisiana Representatives Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and directs $10 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction account for the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) program. This funding allows the Corps of Engineers to begin construction on federally approved restoration projects that will restore and rebuild Louisiana wetlands and barrier islands. In April, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $16.8 million for LCA ecosystem restoration projects. This funding supports President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request for coastal restoration projects.

“This funding is an important step in breaking ground on federally approved projects that will restore critical wetlands around the Mississippi River Delta and protect Louisiana’s coastal infrastructure and natural resources,” said the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation in a joint statement. "Thanks to the efforts of Representatives Scalise and Richmond, these funds will allow Louisiana to move forward on these projects that are so necessary to the long-term viability of our coastal communities.”

Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of wetlands, an area roughly the size of the state of Delaware. The decline of the Mississippi River Delta’s wetlands has dramatically weakened protection from hurricanes by wiping out much of the natural buffer against storm surge and other disasters. The loss of wetlands also threatens:

  • One of our nation’s most important fisheries
  • One of our nation’s most significant port complexes and navigation systems
  • Wildlife, including tens of millions of migratory birds and waterfowl
  • Domestic energy production and processing
  • Communities all along the central Gulf Coast

The federal funding was provided in the House’s version of the FY13 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

More restoration projects like the ones funded through this budget request would be possible with passage of the RESTORE Act. The legislation would dedicate 80 percent of oil spill penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 oil spill towards gulf restoration. The RESTORE Act has received strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and is currently under consideration as part of conference committee negotiations of the House and Senate transportation funding bills.

Contacts:
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, guidrye@nwf.org
Kevin Chandler, National Audubon Society, 202.596.0960, kchandler@audubon.org

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Managing the Mississippi River for ecosystem restoration, navigation and flood protection: A win-win-win

May 16, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Diversions, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Reports, Restoration Projects, Science

By Alisha A. Renfro, Ph.D., Coastal Scientist, National Wildlife Federation

The Mississippi River is one of the largest rivers in the world, carrying water, nutrients and sediment across America’s heartland, through Louisiana and into the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study is a Louisiana Coastal Area project that has recently been initiated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. The purpose of this 5-year, large-scale study is to assess the resources of the lower Mississippi River and evaluate restoration efforts that could increase the long-term sustainability of the delta. To take serious steps toward using the river for coastal restoration, the management of the Mississippi River must be re-envisioned to regard navigation, flood protection and ecosystem restoration as equally important services provided by the river.

Integrating well-designed river diversions into the management of the river has the potential to be a win-win-win for the Mississippi River Delta: restoring the ecosystem, providing a more reliable navigation channel and bolstering the flood protection system.

The hydrodynamic part of this study will focus on compiling previous scientific research and collecting new information about river discharge, water flow, changes in the river bottom and sediment availability. The information collected will be used to inform models that replicate the current conditions of the Mississippi River from the Old River Control Structure north of Baton Rouge down to the Bird’s Foot Delta. The delta management part of this study will use the newly-developed models to assess the benefits and effects of different proposed restoration projects on the river and the nearby basins.

This study is important because it provides us with an opportunity to reevaluate how we manage the Mississippi River. Currently, the river is being managed exclusively for navigation interests, which has directly contributed to Louisiana’s coastal land loss crisis over the last 80 years. However, despite this focus on navigation, increases in the cost of dredging and decreases in the Corps of Engineers’ dredging budget have threatened to diminish the depth and width of the navigation channel, reducing the cargo capacity the ships can carry and decreasing the ability of U.S.-produced exports to compete on the world market.

Integrating well-designed river diversions into the management of the river has the potential to be a win-win-win for the Mississippi River Delta: restoring the ecosystem, providing a more reliable navigation channel and bolstering the flood protection system. Sediment diversions can mimic the natural processes that once built the surrounding delta. They can also remove sediment from the river, which reduces the need and cost for dredging in the navigation channel. During flood events, river diversions can also be used as additional outlets for flood waters, reducing pressure against the flood protection levees that protect communities and important infrastructure.

The Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study is an important tool that will improve the understanding of the current conditions of the mighty Mississippi River and the resources available for coastal restoration. It is imperative that the information from this study be used to accelerate large-scale ecosystem restoration efforts and better manage the river for the important services it provides not only to Louisiana, but to the entire nation.

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Conservation Groups Laud Funding for Restoration Efforts from Senate

April 26, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in Congress, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Media Resources, RESTORE Act, Senator Mary Landrieu

Federal funds will support critical restoration construction projects, jobs in Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:   
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, guidrye@nwf.org
Kevin Chandler, National Audubon Society, 202.596.0960, kchandler@audubon.org

(Washington, D.C.—April 26, 2011) Today, five national and local conservation groups praised the Senate Appropriations Committee for approving funding for critical restoration projects in Louisiana, including an effort to use sediment dredged from navigation waterways to recreate critical wetlands. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would receive $16.8 million for the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) program to begin construction on LCA ecosystem restoration projects and $9.3 million to study future projects. This funding was part of President Obama’s budget request and was strongly supported by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

"This funding is an important step forward in helping restore critical wetlands around the Mississippi River Delta, as well as helping create new jobs in Louisiana. This is a win-win for the environment and the economy,” said the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation in a joint statement. "Thanks to the Appropriations Committee and Sen. Landrieu, these restoration projects will put sediment from the Mississippi River back to use creating wetlands that act as a speed bump for hurricanes and a natural storm buffer for communities.”

“We hope Congress will include this funding in the final version of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill,” the groups continued. “Taking these preventative actions now will make these areas less vulnerable to future disasters."

Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of wetlands, an area roughly equivalent to the state of Delaware. The decline of the Mississippi River Delta’s wetlands has dramatically impaired protection from hurricanes and wiped out much of the buffer against future storms and disasters. The loss of wetlands also threatens:

  • One of our nation’s most important fisheries
  • One of our nation’s most significant port complexes and navigation systems
  • Wildlife, including tens of millions of migratory birds and waterfowl
  • Domestic energy production and processing
  • Communities all along the central Gulf Coast

The federal funding was provided in the Senate Appropriations Committee Report on the FY13 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

More restoration projects like the ones funded through this budget request would be possible with passage of the RESTORE Act. The legislation would dedicate 80 percent of oil spill penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 oil spill towards gulf restoration. The RESTORE Act has received strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

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LCA Science and Technology Program Discontinued, Holds Final Meeting

December 15, 2011 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Meetings/Events

By Alisha Renfro, Ph.D., National Wildlife Federation

Last month, the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Science & Technology (S&T) Science Board held their final meeting on November 15th in Baton Rouge. The S&T program was envisioned to support the LCA Ecosystem Restoration Plan by providing an external science review board; providing analytical tools and technology needed to reduce gaps in scientific knowledge; and to better integrate scientific knowledge at the local, state, and federal levels.

The S&T program closed due to a budget dispute between the State of Louisiana and the Army Corps of Engineers. This final meeting served as a wrap up of the program with presentations on new research that had been conducted and status updates on reports on the ecology of diversions and a guidance document for river diversions.

The meeting began with Dr. Mead Allison presenting his group’s work on determining the sediment and water budget of the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers. For the future and success of the LCA restoration plan, it is critical to know how much sand is transported through the lower Mississippi River, where it is deposited and how much of it is lost to the Gulf. Preliminary discussion of the research results indicates that much of the sand that enters the lower Mississippi River is stored in the river channel or as overbank deposit. This work also indicates that greater sediment transport in the river is, in general, tied closely to high river discharge, but that direct monitoring work is needed to fine tune this relationship and account for other processes that increase sediment in the river at lower discharges. These results suggest that river diversion projects would be more effective when located higher on the river and should be operated when sediment transport in the river is at its highest.

The afternoon meeting focused on two highly anticipated reports—one of which will focus on developing a river diversion guidance document for managers and another on the ecology of diversions. The diversions ecology report was developed to explore information about river diversions, scientific uncertainties, scientific need to reduce uncertainties and maximize diversion effectiveness and operation recommendations for existing freshwater diversions to maximize their potential. The goal of the guidance document is to provide a rational basis for design, size, location and key project parameters as well as improving the methodology of diversion project design, implementation, and operation. Much of this work is still under review but should be released to the public in the near future.

Restoration of coastal Louisiana requires bold, ecosystem-scale restoration that is based on the best science available. Even with the dissolution of the S&T program, this pursuit of science-based restoration solutions must continue with groups like the Mississippi River Delta Coalition’s Science and Engineering Special Team (SEST) taking the lead. This group is comprised of scientists from various disciplines and throughout the U.S. that come together to try and answer the big questions in the pathway forward to restoring Louisiana’s coast.

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Mississippi River Diversions Workshop Tackles Difficult Scientific Questions

March 1, 2011 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Diversions, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Meetings/Events, NOAA, Restoration Projects

By Angelina Freeman (Environmental Defense Fund), David Muth (National Wildlife Federation), and Bryan Piazza (The Nature Conservancy)

The Louisiana Coastal Area Program (LCA) Science and Technology Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) convened a meeting Feb. 23-24 on the technical issues of freshwater river diversions and the response of wetland soils and vegetation.  The plants in coastal wetlands will drown if they cannot keep up with rising water levels.

This fact is especially evident in Louisiana, where the gradual rise of sea level is made relatively worse by rapid rates of subsidence (sinking land).  To maintain surface elevations within the intertidal zone, wetlands need to add soil.  Luckily, both by capturing sand and clay from the water and – just as importantly – by adding organic matter through root growth and leaf drop, healthy wetlands can increase their elevation.

Photo by Dennis Demcheck (USGS)

One critical tool for ensuring the health of coastal Louisiana is to reconnect the wetlands to the river with diversions of river water and sediments.  Diversions mimic the natural delta cycle that was interrupted with river levees and channelization.  It is important that we develop a thorough understanding of the effects of river diversions on wetland plants and soils so that future management and restoration are based on a sound understanding of the biophysical controls on soil surface elevation and how they can be optimized for restoration.

Nutrient inputs to the Mississippi River and its tributaries have increased in recent decades, creating a desire for basin-wide nutrient mitigation strategies to alleviate problems, such as Gulf hypoxia (when oxygen concentrations fall below the level necessary to sustain most animal life, a.k.a. the Dead Zone).  While coastal wetlands have been shown to efficiently take up nutrients, there are questions regarding impacts of excess nutrients to wetland structure and function, which underscore the importance of nutrient reduction.

Scientists at last week’s workshop explored these questions from multiple perspectives and presented research investigating controls on marsh elevation, factors determining marsh soil and vegetation response,  marsh characterization, consequences of river diversions to belowground productivity, and effects of salinity and nutrients on plant growth and soil organic matter decomposition.  Abstracts of the presentations can be found on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ website.

Freshwater diversions are useful for multiple purposes, including: protecting drinking water, providing nutrient inputs to maintain plant production, and maintaining down-basin salinities to increase fish and wildlife productivity.  Most of the diversions in Louisiana are called “freshwater diversions” because their discharge contains relatively little sediment.  Many of the speakers agreed that for the restoration of Louisiana’s wetlands, it is important to maximize the amount of sediment in diversions for land building.

A position paper will be developed by a technical panel to address what is known about Mississippi River diversions, where chief uncertainties are, the direction on science needed to reduce uncertainties, and recommendations for operation of existing structures.  Presentation abstracts, other workshop information, and post-workshop products can be accessed on the workshop website.

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President’s Budget Maintains Commitment to Funding Gulf Coast Restoration

February 16, 2011 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Policy, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA)

On Monday (Feb. 14), five conservation groups praised President Obama for maintaining his commitment to Gulf Coast restoration by recommending the first-ever funding to construct wetlands projects to reverse wetlands losses in the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) of the Mississippi River Delta.

The President’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget request for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fund LCA restoration is $27 million, including $10.845 million for wetlands feasibility studies, $5.4 million for wetlands pre-construction engineering and design studies, $10.62 million for wetlands construction projects and $100,000 for the LCA comprehensive plan (see page 23).  Congress has not acted yet on the President’s FY 2011 budget request, which included $35.6 million for the Corps to fund LCA ecosystem restoration, split between $19 million for wetlands construction projects and $16.6 million for wetlands pre-construction engineering and design studies.

The President’s proposed investments are part of a larger effort that focuses the expertise and resources of a broad spectrum of federal agencies — including the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey — on the critical restoration needs on the Gulf Coast.

Read more in the joint statement from the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society, and National Wildlife Federation.

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Louisiana Coastal Area 6 Project Profile: Convey Atchafalaya River Water to Northern Terrebonne Marshes

December 21, 2010 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Restoration Projects

By Angelina Freeman (Environmental Defense Fund), Natalie Snider (Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana) and John Lopez (Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation)

As we discussed in a previous post, four of our organizations recently reviewed and provided comments on the six near-term Louisiana Coastal Area 6 project reports and final environmental impact statements.

In contrast to the robustness of the Medium Diversion at White Ditch project, the narrowing of ambition in the design of the Convey Atchafalaya River Water to Northern Terrebonne Marshes/Multipurpose Operation of the Houma Navigation Lock is striking and suggests that as currently configured, it may not achieve the objectives of the project.

As stated in the Draft Feasibility Report:

“The purpose of the project is to reverse the current trend of marsh degradation in the project area resulting from subsidence, erosion, saltwater intrusion, and lack of sediment and nutrient deposition.  The project proposes to accomplish this by utilizing fresh water, sediments, and nutrients from the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW).”

 

The tentatively selected plan (TSP) will reduce land loss rates by a mere 10 percent over the 50-year project period, and this benefit will be lost if there is intermediate or high relative sea level rise.  Additionally, none of the alternatives would prevent marsh collapse at the high relative sea level rise (RSLR) rate.

Although none of the alternatives meet the full objectives of the project, there are some benefits to be realized from this project.  The northern and central Terrebonne Basin is in dire need of additional fresh water and sediment inputs.  But the TSP does not make any change to the Avoca Island levee, which is one of the root causes of land loss in this area. 

The groups therefore urge further consideration of a gate diversion structure in a new Avoca Island levee opening; a structure that would return the hydrology of this part of the coast more to the distribution of flows that existed prior to construction of the levee.  Only a design that taps into the head of the Atchafalaya River above Morgan City will result in significant expansion to the east of the area currently benefited.

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