Archive for Meetings/Events
Risk and Resilience: Society of Environmental Journalists hosts annual conference this week in New OrleansSeptember 4, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in BP Oil Disaster, Community Resiliency, Hurricane Isaac, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, Media Resources, Meetings/Events
By Elizabeth Skree, Communications Manager, Environmental Defense Fund
This week, along the Mississippi River at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans, hundreds of environmental journalists, reporters and bloggers; journalism students and professors; communications professionals; and NGO and government expert presenters and panelists are gathering for the annual Society of Environmental Journalists Conference. The conference brings together environmental journalists from around the world to learn about emerging environmental issues, meet new sources and experts, learn about new tools and programs, network and socialize.
The theme of this year’s conference is “Risk and Resilience,” and there is no better place to discuss these issues than the Mississippi River Delta. Nine years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and six years after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, it is impressive how much of the region has recovered. But while many areas have been revitalized, there are just as many areas that are still rebuilding. Recent climate reports indicate that coastal cities like New Orleans can expect to see more intense storms in the years to come, amplifying the need for increased storm protection. In 2010, the Gulf oil disaster delivered yet another blow to Louisiana’s coast. Even now, the full effects of the spill are unknown, and oil continues to wash up on shore.
On top of it all, Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, a first line of defense against storms, have been vanishing at a staggering rate: Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost nearly 1,900 square miles of land. That’s like the state of Delaware disappearing into the ocean. These wetlands help protect cities, communities and infrastructure by lessening the effects of storm surge. But every hour, Louisiana loses another football field of land, putting the region at increased risk.
But there is hope for recovery and the creation of a restored, resilient Mississippi River Delta. Plans are in place to rebuild coastal wetlands, which will in turn help fortify the coast and cities like New Orleans, provide vital habitat for wildlife and migratory birds, create new jobs and protect existing industries and provide a myriad of other ecological and economic benefits to not only Louisiana, but the entire Gulf Coast.
Staff members from the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Campaign will be at this week’s conference serving as tour guides, panelists and exhibitors. They will be available to answer questions about Louisiana’s land loss crisis, the Gulf oil disaster, solutions for restoring the Mississippi River Delta and other environmental issues facing the region. You can find campaign experts on the following field trips and panels:
Thursday field trips:
Louisiana’s Great Lakes, Cypress Swamps and Woodpeckers
- Alisha Renfro, Staff Scientist, National Wildlife Federation
- John Lopez, Executive Director and Senior Scientist, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
- Melanie Driscoll, Director of Bird Conservation, Gulf Coast/Mississippi Flyway, National Audubon Society
Oyster Reefs and Fisheries in the Aftermath of BP and Katrina
- David Muth, Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation
The Long Road Home: Community Resilience, Adaptations, and Legacies From America’s Biggest Rebuild
- Amanda Moore, Deputy Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation
“The Globe: Feeding Eight Billion People in a Warming World”
- Rebecca Shaw, Associate Vice President of Ecosystems and Senior Lead Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund
“Oceans and Coasts: The BP Spill’s Untold Ecological Toll”
- Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund
The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Campaign will also be cohosting a hospitality reception with The Walton Family Foundation Thursday evening from 5:00-9:00pm. Stop by and meet our campaign’s experts and learn more about our work restoring Louisiana’s coast.
We will also have an exhibit booth Friday and Saturday, stop by and pick up materials, hear about our programs and projects and meet some of our staff.No Comments
The State of Louisiana is hosting three meetings in September to increase public awareness around the funding distribution of the RESTORE Act and to request additional feedback and ideas from the public. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, also known as the RESTORE Council, is responsible for distributing 30% of the money directed to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. Members of the public are invited to submit formal proposals for projects or programs for funding consideration, to voice support for existing projects, or to provide general feedback on priorities for Gulf restoration at these meetings.
Projects proposed for funding through the Council-selected component must ultimately be submitted by members of the RESTORE Council. Representatives from federal agencies on the RESTORE Council and members of the RESTORE Council staff have been invited to join the State of Louisiana in receiving public input and project ideas. Federal agencies have also been invited to participate in the open house portion of the first two meetings so that members of the public can learn more about opportunities to engage with those agencies.
We invite you to attend one of the following meetings to learn about the process and to discuss your ideas:
Thursday, September 4, 2014
University of New Orleans Homer Hitt Alumni Center
2000 Lakeshore Drive
New Orleans, LA
5:30 p.m. Open House
6:00 p.m. Formal Meeting (brief background presentation by State of Louisiana followed by listening session
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Houma Municipal Auditorium
880 Verret Street
5:30 p.m. Open House
6:00 p.m. Formal Meeting (brief background presentation by State of Louisiana followed by listening session)
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board Meeting
Willis Noland Room
4310 Ryan Street, 2nd Floor
Lake Charles, LA
9:30 a.m. (dedicated public comment period)
Public input may also be submitted by phone, mail, or by email at the information below:
Mail: Attn: Jenny Kurz, CPRA, P.O. Box 44027, Baton Rouge, LA, 70804
Phone: Meg Bankston: (225) 342-4844
More information about the project submittal process can be found here.No Comments
The Lens, with sponsorship from the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition, is hosting a panel discussion on the financing of Louisiana's $50-billion Coastal Master Plan at Loyola University this Wednesday, Aug. 20 from 6 to 8 p.m.
This event is designed to send the audience home with a solid understanding of how to restore our coast. An example of questions The Lens plans to address include the following:
- How far can we go on the current master plan with the funding in place as well as future funding the state believes it can count on?
- What will happen to the scope of the master plan, and the coast, if we don’t secure funding sources beyond that date?
- What are the chances Congress will step up in the next decade and provide substantial funding?
- What are alternative sources of money?
- What can you do to help with this challenge?
- Mark Davis, Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy
- John Driscoll, Corporate Planning Resources
- Kyle Graham, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
- Douglas J. Meffert, Audubon Louisiana/National Audubon Society
- Steve Murchie, Gulf Restoration Network
- John Snell, WVUE/Fox 8 Moderator
- Courtney Taylor, Environmental Defense Fund
- Wednesday, Aug. 20
- 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Loyola University, Miller Hall 114
Questions: amueller@TheLensNola.org or (504) 258-1624
Light refreshments will be served.No Comments
By Philip Russo, Plaquemines Parish Outreach Coordinator, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition
A couple weeks ago, I traveled down the Atchafalaya River’s Wax Lake Outlet on a boat tour attended by state officials, coastal restoration advocates and media personnel. The outlet, constructed in 1941 to reduce flood stages at Morgan City, has had the serendipitous effect of creating its own delta—one particle of clay at a time.
Our boats approached one of the outlet’s delta islands. This large island, and others like it, formed over the last two decades. As a young man growing up here, I explored the warm, muddy bayous and dense cypress swamps surrounding Morgan City. There was deep satisfaction in knowing where I could hook catfish or stalk alligator. However, I didn't understand the significance of the area gaining land. Complex wetland ecosystems look simple when you don’t see the “swamp for the trees,” and I was oblivious to the larger role this watery landscape played in supporting our economy, protecting our communities and incubating our culture.
When we pulled ashore, Paul Kemp, a coastal oceanographer and geologist at Louisiana State University, said, “If we tried to propose a sediment diversion like this, they would say we’re crazy,” because the Wax Lake Outlet is a very large diversion with no control structures. However, "when you look at the landloss maps, this is the one place that’s [building land].”
As an experienced professor, Kemp knows how to put this into perspective. In addition to building land, he described how the Atchafalaya’s sediment-rich waters help salt and brackish marshes, that line the nearby bays, keep up with sea level rise. “They are sustained by mud that comes into the bays and then gets re-suspended through tidal and wind action.”
He concluded that, these systems need mineral sediment, not just decaying organic matter and “deltas just don’t do very well in the absence of a river.”
When talking about coastal restoration in terms of rivers, deltas, and islands, it’s easy to focus on the sediment, especially if you’re hanging around a geologist. But the diversity and robustness of the plants, and thus the wildlife, is undeniable. According to Bren Haase at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, “You just don’t see this in deteriorating deltas; you see this in building deltas.”
The Louisiana Wildlife Federation was perceptive in organizing this trip to give state officials, restoration advocates, and media personnel hands on experience with a growing delta. For me personally, it confirmed that I’ve come a long way in understanding and appreciating our wetlands. And it’s encouraging to see I haven’t made this journey alone since recent polls show that protecting and restoring our coast is a major public priority.
To those who haven’t had a chance, go to Wax Lake and see for yourself the possibilities for our coast.
By Eden Davis, Greater New Orleans Outreach Coordinator, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign
On Wednesday June 18, the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign and the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce co-hosted a “Party with a Purpose” for young professionals. More than 64 young professionals came out to enjoy the evening at Brisbi’s restaurant in Lakeview. The event highlighted the coastal land loss crisis that Louisiana is currently facing as well as solutions to restore our coast.
Louisiana loses a football field of wetlands every hour. Since 1932, Louisiana has lost more than 1.2 million acres of wetlands. It is projected that if no action is taken to restore the coast, Louisiana will lose another 1 million acres over the next 50 years.
“Party with a Purpose” was attended by young professionals from the insurance, real estate, banking, non-profit, marketing and sales industries who came to socialize and learn more about Louisiana’s land loss crisis, solutions for restoration and how to get involved.
Brisbi’s was a fitting venue to remind attendees of Louisiana’s land loss crisis. The restaurant fronts the marina that opens into Lake Pontchartrain. During Hurricane Katrina, the waters of Lake Pontchartrain rose and a section of the levee flood wall along the 17th Street Canal near the lake collapsed. This was one of the most significant levee failures during Hurricane Katrina. Floodwater from the flood wall breach inundated large parts of Lakeview in a matter of minutes, including Brisbi’s. Near the breach itself, the force of the storm surge uprooted trees and even separated some houses from their foundations. Some areas received as much as 14 feet of floodwater.
As New Orleanians, we often forget we live on the coast, but one can easily be reminded by visiting Brisbi’s on the lakefront. In New Orleans, we are protected by the marshes, wetlands and barrier islands which stand between our city and the open Gulf of Mexico. It’s this natural infrastructure which protects our communities, businesses and homes from being inundated with storm surge when hurricanes hit coastal Louisiana.
While Louisiana has invested in a $14-billion Greater New Orleans Hurricane Protection System, which includes miles of levees and state-of-the-art pumps, the levees were not engineered to withstand open water. The levees were designed to be protected by thriving wetlands and marsh.
In order to protect our vibrant city, unique culture, thriving economy and distinct communities, we must take action NOW to restore our coast. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep updated on efforts to restore coastal Louisiana. Additionally, if you would like to receive coastal restoration and land loss updates as well as updates on ways you can join the fight to save Louisiana’s coast, please email myself, Eden Davis, at firstname.lastname@example.org.No Comments
By Alisha Renfro, Staff Scientist for Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition
At the start of the 2014 hurricane season, risk reduction and coastal resilience – the ability of a coastal system to resist, recover and adapt to events like storm events – should be on everyone’s mind. Here in Louisiana, we’re facing land loss, rising sea levels and storms, which have severely diminished the natural resilience of the coast. That means increasing the resiliency of our coastal system will make all the difference for our communities’ survival.
Recently in New Orleans, the Conference on Coastal Resilience: The Environment, Infrastructure and Human Systems brought together people with science, engineering, federal, and private industry backgrounds. They explored the technical issues, obstacles and opportunities that exist in reducing risk and creating more resilient coastal communities and coastlines throughout the world.
The pathway forward to enhanced coastal resilience will vary from location to location. That being said, the main idea echoed by many presenters was a combination of simultaneous approaches:
Structural – engineered and constructed features, such as levees and surge barriers, that can reduce shoreline erosion, attenuate waves and storm surge, and reduce the likelihood of flooding
Non-Structural – flood proofing, elevation of homes and businesses, relocation, or restricted development that results from a product of policy, regulatory, or management practices that modify or avoid impacts from flooding.
Nature-Based – Planning and engineering that incorporates or restores the contribution of natural coastal processes and features, such as barrier islands, dunes, and wetlands, along with structural features to reduce risk and enhance coastal resilience.
In the past, risk reduction and coastal resilience planning has focused on structural solutions. However, as sea level continues to rise and storm events occur throughout the world, regions relying on expensive structural measures threaten to stretch budgets to their breaking point. As presenters at the conference showed, the movement toward a multi-pronged approach to coastal resilience is even occurring in the Netherlands, a country long recognized as a cutting-edge innovator for engineered coastal resilience.
In Louisiana, we have a few unique challenges, but we also have a few unique opportunities. A combination of factors have led to the dramatic loss of nearly 1900 square miles of our natural protective wetlands and barrier islands. But we do have one advantage, one irreplaceable opportunity we can use to restore some of the natural resilience to our coastal system: the Mississippi River. Using dredged sediment to strategically create wetlands and restore barrier islands along with reconnecting the sediment and fresh water from the river to build and nourish are essential lines of defense for creating a more resilient coastline.
Rising sea levels and storm events threaten the resilience of coastal communities throughout the world. By pursuing innovation and a balance of structural, non-structural, and nature-based approaches, coastal communities can become more resilient. What that looks like may vary greatly from location to location, but it’s clear this opportunity can’t be squandered. In Louisiana, we must take full advantage of the river’s sediment and fresh water to strategically rebuild our coast and create a more resilient future.No Comments
Last Friday, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana held its 19th annual Coastal Stewardship Awards. Awards are given to “those who demonstrate outstanding commitment to the coast, and have made significant contributions to the preservation and restoration of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.” (CRCL website)
Cynthia Duet, Audubon Louisiana’s Director of Governmental Relations, received an award for her incredible work on coastal issues.
Cynthia is a member of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition, and she works with government agencies and legislators as well as coastal stakeholders to advance coastal policy, funding and project implementation. She is also a participating member of the state's Coastal Master Plan Framework Development Team and Landowner Focus Group, and various other standing committees.
Cynthia is the former deputy director of the Louisiana Governor's Office of Coastal Activities. She has more than 15 years of experience in Louisiana coastal policy development, strategic coastal planning and environmental project management and education.
Our campaign is proud to work with such a talented and hard-working person – thanks to Cynthia for her years of service and congratulations!
By Erin Greeson (National Audubon Society) and Alisha Renfro (National Wildlife Federation)
While there is no question that large-scale action is urgently needed to add address Louisiana’s land loss crisis, some questions surround the scientific solutions necessary to address this challenge. As the state of Louisiana advances its Coastal Master Plan and the comprehensive set of restoration projects within it, experts have opened discussion to scientists and interested members of the public to provide information, share science and encourage dialogue.
This week in New Orleans, the Expert Panel on Diversion Planning and Implementation had their second meeting, which offered an opportunity to reconvene for updates and discussion on sediment diversions – one of the key tools in Louisiana’s coastal restoration toolbox. In addition to addressing environmental concerns, the panel addressed social and economic questions about river diversions and the communities they will impact.
At the start of the meeting, Mr. King Milling, Chair of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation, delivered a powerful reminder of Louisiana’s disappearing coast:
“Demise of this delta would be an environmental impact of international proportions: disaster for economy, culture, communities – all the things we do and live for in the delta. If we don’t proceed urgently, we will lose the delta. Nothing will stop this damage if we don’t proceed in an orderly fashion with large-scale, comprehensive solutions. This is not a time for debate. Our role is to address the issue of remarkable deterioration, and the state’s diversion committee will be addressing issues and conflicts. Its position is to focus on the larger picture of how we can preserve as much as we can, and how can we create a system that will protect as much as we can.”
The first day of the meeting was open to the public, and the agenda reflected many of the areas of focus that require follow-up from the panel’s first meeting. Presentations from the Army Corps of Engineers, The Water Institute of the Gulf and Biedenharn Group focused on the Hydrodynamic Study, which is collecting data in the river and using models to represent conditions in the river as it is today, predicting what the river will be like in the future without diversion projects and how the construction and operation of diversion projects change the river compared to the future without the diversions. They also briefly discussed the Mississippi River Delta Management Study, expected to begin soon, which will focus on the basin-side effects of diversions and evaluate combinations of diversion projects that maximize the number of acres of wetlands built or sustained over time.
Presentations from David Lindquist from the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) summarized the current state of knowledge on fisheries and wildlife response to existing freshwater diversions. Craig Colten, Ph.D. from the Water Institute of the Gulf highlighted the importance of considering the influences of restoration projects on communities.
A presentation from Micaela Coner and Bob Beduhn narrowed the discussion down to the engineering and design considerations of a single project – the Mid-Barataria Diversion. Ms. Coner, CPRA, discussed the Mid-Barataria sediment diversion project within the context of the 109 Coastal Master Plan projects. Speaking to the plan’s theme of reconnecting the river with its estuaries, she described sediment diversions as the best opportunity to build, maintain and sustain land.
Dr. Robert Twilley, Louisiana State University, described how the river once built natural resource wealth: “Natural resource economies and the flooding of the river once coexisted. The wealth of fisheries, and the wealth of the river building wetlands, once coexisted. Today, there’s a conflict. Historically, the river built land during big flood events. Nature had this figured out. We’re forcing a conflict. There is a resolution to this.”
During the closing portion of the meeting, attendees had opportunities to provide comments to the Expert Panel. Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition leaders were among the conversation.
David Muth of the National Wildlife Federation urged the panel to consider the historical context of the river in addressing site-specific questions about diversions: “We have glimpses from historical record about how productive this system once was. But for the past 300 years, we have been choking off that system.”
John Lopez of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation described the coastal land loss crisis in powerful terms and underscored for a sense of urgency: “This house is on fire. Lives are at risk. We have a great scientific challenge, but we don’t have time to delay.”
More background on the Expert Panel:
During its first meeting in January, the Expert Panel was asked to focus on the topics of uncertainty – underlying natural variability and limitations in knowledge – they perceived surrounding the design and operation of major freshwater and sediment diversions. A report summarizing their findings and recommendations from that first meeting was released in February.
In this report the panel focused on identifying six areas that should be answered or considered as sediment diversions move further from idea into planning, engineering and design:
- Data collection is important for understanding the system as it is today and for evaluating performance of individual diversion projects.
- A controlled sediment diversion does not currently exist, but some information needed to understand the time scales and extent of land building that could be expected from a controlled sediment diversion can be gleaned from natural crevasses.
- The response of plant, fish and wildlife communities to the operation of sediment diversions should be incorporated into modeling of different scenarios, both capacity and operation, of a diversion.
- The potential social and economic influences of a diversion project need to be considered to minimize any potential negative impacts that can be foreseen.
- Planning and design of diversion projects need to be explored under present day and possible future conditions (e.g. sea level rise, changes in precipitation) to maximize project success in the very near and long-term future.
- Communications between planners and stakeholders to discuss the realities and limitations of any predictions is essential for project success.
Restore or Retreat Annual General Membership Meeting
Monday, April 28, 2014
Guest Speaker: Justin Ehrenwerth, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council
The RESTORE Act established a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, comprised of the five Gulf States, as well as federal departments and agencies, which will manage a 30 percent share of Gulf oil spill Clean Water Act penalties distributed under the RESTORE Act for ecosystem restoration through a Comprehensive Plan.
When: Monday, April 28, 2014
11:30 am Registration
207 East Bayou Road
Reservations are open to the public, but are requested by Wednesday, April 23.
$25 payable in advance
$30 at the door
$250 table sponsors (seating for 8 with priority seating and event recognition)
Call (985) 448-4485 or fax (985) 448-4486 to RSVP or register online at www.restoreorretreat.org.No Comments
By Eden Davis and Philip Russo, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition
There are many reasons to advocate for coastal restoration in Louisiana, but few arguments are as compelling as preserving the cultural legacy of a state known for its food, music and festivities. That’s why we as part of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition are doing our best to celebrate tirelessly the cultural apex that is Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We, along with the rest of the community, line the sidewalks and neutral grounds of the boulevards where we share black cauldrons of jambalaya and generous portions of king cake. We gather to see and hear the spectacle that is the dance troupes, marching bands and ornate floats, but most importantly, we do it to feel the pulse of our community and to indulge in its vitality. We may have not always vocalized it as such, but it’s why we’ve always done it, going back all the way to the founding of the oldest and most venerable Krewe of Rex that rolls Mardi Gras morning.
The Krewe of Rex has held more parades than any other organization. They are the origin of many Mardi Gras traditions, including the official Carnival colors of purple, green and gold. Founded in 1872, Rex sought to attract new businesses and residents to a New Orleans that was struggling to recover from the lingering effects of the Civil War, when divisions and isolation prevailed. The founders knew the creation of a grand Mardi Gras celebration would lend itself to healing those wounds and restoring the unity that was such a prominent feature of this silted landscape. Most would agree that their efforts were an unbelievable success, but history has a way of repeating itself.
After Hurricane Katrina, this same story played out again as New Orleans struggled to rebuild not only its levees and homes, but its image. Today’s worries are not of the aftermath of a civil war, but of decades of tremendous land loss and increasingly devastating hurricanes. To ameliorate this, the state adopted a Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast. If enacted thoroughly, barrier islands, sediment diversions and marsh creation projects will, along with the efforts of Mardi Gras Krewes, not only sustain our coast, but also the traditions that makes it worth inhabiting. So we are doing our part, reveling when we can, sleeping when we can and asking everyone to join us in support of Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan and coastal restoration. Happy Mardi Gras, y’all!No Comments