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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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Louisiana Coastal Area 6 Project Profile: Medium Diversion at White Ditch

December 8, 2010 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Congress, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Restoration Projects, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), Whites Ditch

By Angelina Freeman, Environmental Defense Fund

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund and National Audubon Society reviewed and provided comments on the six near-term Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA 6) project reports and final environmental impact statements.

Medium Diversion at White Ditch, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Program

Among the LCA 6, perhaps the most ground-breaking is the tentatively selected plan that incorporates pulsing for the Medium Diversion at White Ditch.  White Ditch would provide freshwater, nutrients and sediments to restore degraded habitat and sustain a larger coastal ecosystem east of the Mississippi to support and protect the environment, economy and culture of southern Louisiana.

“We support and commend the recommended plan incorporating pulsing at 35,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) at high river flows to maximize sediment capture in the planning and operation of the diversion," stated the groups in their letter to the Corps.  "We agree that the recommended plan meets the LCA program and project objectives and is within the scope of the WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] authorization, and therefore agree that Congress raise the total project cost for the Medium Diversion at White Ditch Project.”

The recommended plan requires congressional action.  The groups pledge to work with the newly-elected Congress to secure legislation required to change the authorization and funding required to begin project construction.

The White Ditch project is entering the Planning, Engineering, and Design (PED) phase.  Sediment concentrations in the Mississippi River can vary significantly according to location, and the groups recommend a thorough analysis of site specific data and modeling in PED to improve prediction of the sediment efficiency of the diversion relative to location.  The groups also recommended reevaluating the conveyance channel and whether natural channel formation can be effectively utilized allowing the engineering to be scaled back (thereby reducing cost) to be investigated in PED.

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