Archive for Meetings/Events


Draft FY2015 Annual Plan, Oil Spill NRDA Public Meetings

January 10, 2014 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Meetings/Events, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), NOAA

By Maura Wood, Partnership Manager, National Wildlife Federation

With everyone’s help, we are making great strides toward restoring Louisiana’s coast. Our efforts to attain the resources necessary to meet this great challenge are gaining momentum and projects are moving forward. Next week on January 14, 15, and 16, Louisianans will be able to learn about and comment on the progress being made on coastal restoration at three multi-purpose public hearings being held by Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA).

The first section of each meeting will be an opportunity to hear a summary presentation of the CPRA’s Draft Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Plan and make comments on the plan. Each year, the Annual Plan details how the 2012 Coastal Master Plan is being implemented, reports on the status of ongoing work and projects and provides a 3-year projection of expenditures, as required by law. The Annual Plan provides a window into how the CPRA is allocating its resources in the short term, within the context of the long-term, big-picture vision of the overall Coastal Master Plan.

Beach habitat would be restored as part of the proposed third phase of early restoration.

Beach habitat would be restored as part of the proposed third phase of early restoration.

The second half of the meeting will widen the focus to include Gulf-wide coastal restoration plans and projects. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees will give a presentation on and listen to public comments regarding the Draft Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Draft Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. This meeting is an opportunity for the public to comment on the third and final set of projects proposed to address oil spill impacts under the Early Restoration Plan as well as the Environmental Impact Statement that assesses the projects themselves.

All meetings are public and will begin with an open house at 5:30 p.m., followed by presentations beginning at 6:00 p.m. Please consider joining us at one of the following meetings. If you’re interested in attending, please contact our field director, Stephanie Powell, at powells@nwf.org.

Tuesday, January 14
Belle Chasse Auditorium
8398 Louisiana 23
Belle Chasse, Louisiana
(Get Directions)

Wednesday, January 15
Warren J. Harang, Jr. Municipal Auditorium
Plantation Room
310 North Canal Boulevard
Thibodaux, Louisiana
(Get Directions)

Thursday, January 16
Spring Hill Suites Lake Charles
Pelican Room
1551 West Prien Lake Road
Lake Charles, Louisiana
(Get Directions)

For more information:

Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority: coastal.la.gov

Phase III of Early Restoration: www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov/restoration/early-restoration/phase-iii/

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Louisiana bird watchers flock to Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count

December 20, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Birds, Meetings/Events

By Erik I. Johnson, PhD., Director of Bird Conservation, Audubon Louisiana

Between December 14 and January 5, bird watchers from around the country will spend a perfectly good day counting birds for the 114th Christmas Bird Count (CBC), organized by the National Audubon Society. The longest-running citizen science program in the world, this annual event is an irreplaceable tool for researchers and the conservation community to learn about how our birds are doing – are their populations increasing or decreasing, and where is this happening?

Royal Tern. Credit: Erik Johnson.

Royal Tern. Credit: Erik Johnson.

More than 2,000 count circles are run around the country each year. Each CBC circle is 15 miles in diameter, and participants cover as much of this area as possible to find and tally all the birds they see and hear. To discover a CBC near you, see this map.

Some south Louisiana Christmas Bird Count circles have among the highest species counts of anywhere in the country. A mix of east and west, temperate and tropical, a stunning variety of birds can be found on Louisiana’s Christmas Bird Counts, such as Sandhill Cranes, Roseate Spoonbills, Vermilion Flycatchers, Buff-bellied Hummingbirds and Short-eared Owls, just to name a few.

Roseate Spoonbill. High Island, TX (April 5, 2009). Credit: Erik Johnson

Roseate Spoonbill. Credit: Erik Johnson

The number and diversity of birds are found here because much of Louisiana’s coastal habitats are globally Important Bird Areas, strategically positioned at the base of the Mississippi Flyway. Supporting a variety of birds including many species of national conservation concern like Seaside Sparrows, Piping Plovers and Reddish Egrets, Louisiana’s coast is a critical wintering location for birds from across North America. As we face crucial decisions regarding restoration of Louisiana’s coastline to sustain our cultural and historical legacy, we also need to ensure that this monumental effort benefits birds and other wildlife. Data from the Christmas Bird Count have shown that shorebirds and marshbirds are among the fastest declining groups of birds along the Gulf Coast – no doubt as a consequence of habitat loss due to natural and man-made factors. Terns, sandpipers, plovers and rails are not doing as well as they used to because barrier islands are disappearing into the ocean and marshes are being converted to open water.

Piping Plover. Credit: Erik Johnson.

Piping Plover. Credit: Erik Johnson.

Nowhere else does the state bird, the pelican, mean so much to a state’s legacy and culture. Having come back from extinction in Louisiana to having multiple successful island-nesting colonies supporting tens of thousands of pelicans, a concerted effort to continue this success story is imperative. Other birds that also stand to benefit from coastal restoration include threatened Piping Plovers that forage on invertebrates along sandy and muddy shorelines, Reddish Egrets that dance in shallow estuaries to catch minnows and crustaceans, Royal Terns that plunge into bays after small fish and Marsh Wrens that secretively glean insects and spiders from the stems of marsh grasses.

Reddish Egret. Credit: Erik Johnson.

Reddish Egret. Credit: Erik Johnson.

We invite you to come enjoy some of the finest bird watching in the country and join a CBC, regardless of your experience level. If interested, please contact myself, Erik Johnson, regional coordinator and Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Louisiana, or find out more at the CBC website.

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Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival celebrates its 66th year

December 17, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Community Resiliency, Meetings/Events, People

By Philip Russo, Plaquemines Parish Outreach Coordinator, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign

During the first weekend in December, local residents and tourists alike celebrated the bounty of Plaquemines Parish’s cultural and economic successes at the 66th annual Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival in Buras. Huddled between the protective Mississippi River levee and the elegantly decayed Fort Jackson, the festival was not entirely spared the blustery and frosty weather that is typical of early December. Yet despite the weather, fairgoers celebrated “the best Citrus in the Country” and reveled in the Mississippi River Delta’s natural beauty.

Dancing

Festival queens dancing at the Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival.

The fusion of Creole and Croatian cuisine served throughout the festival grounds presented a tasty backdrop for the series of navel-themed contests, such as orange peeling and orange eating, that festival queens from all over Louisiana came to compete in. The festival was successful and well-attended, but local residents still lament that the fair has not returned to being held within the confines of Fort Jackson itself – a tradition interrupted by extensive flood damage resulting from Hurricane Katrina. However, if coastal erosion and sea level rise are not countered with aggressive coastal restoration efforts, Millennials may be the last generation to enjoy the festival on this site.

Kumquats

Festival queens competing to see who can fit the most kumquats in their mouths.

Storied harvest festivals are a common but precious feature of the fragile human landscape of coastal Louisiana. As we design and implement coastal restoration projects, we are protecting and preserving not only the delta and its vital wetlands, but also the area’s occupants, their way of life and the cultural legacies of the region which depend on the health of the Mississippi River Delta. So whether you’re a fan of hearing the Crawfish Race Commissioner yell “ils sont partis” at the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge or festival queens competing to see who can fit the most kumquats in their mouths at the Orange Festival in Buras, seeing Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan thoroughly implemented should be a top priority.

Fort Jackson

An entrance to Fort Jackson in Buras, La.

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Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle signs teach visitors about need for coastal restoration

November 22, 2013 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Hurricane Katrina, Meetings/Events, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

By Amanda Moore (National Wildlife Federation) and Elizabeth Skree (Environmental Defense Fund)

Excitement filled the air last Friday as community members, government officials, students and staff from local and national conservation organizations gathered on the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle viewing platform in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward to celebrate the unveiling of new educational, interactive signs. These signs help interpret an important story for visitors as they look out over the open water and ghostly remains of a former healthy cypress swamp. At this powerful site, in the backyard of a community less than five miles from the French Quarter that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, visitors will learn about efforts to restore the Bayou Bienvenue ecosystem as well as the broader, critical need for coastal restoration. The signs were a project of The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development and the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign.

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The welcome sign (foreground) greets visitors as they approach the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle viewing platform (background).

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In addition to the four National Park Service-grade signs, a new website, www.restorethebayou.org, was also created to accompany the signs. On the site, visitors can learn more about the history of Bayou Bienvenue; read about the vision for restoration of the wetland triangle as well as broader Louisiana coastal restoration; learn about community and environmental organizations working to restore the wetlands; watch videos in the multimedia gallery; sign the virtual guestbook by taking a photo using Instagram and adding the hashtag #restorethebayou; and take action by signing a petition to decision-makers, asking them to prioritize MRGO-area restoration projects – like the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle.

The dozens of people in attendance heard from Garret Graves, Chair of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, who proclaimed the importance of the platform and signs when he said, “This is such an important teaching tool for us…it’s a microcosm of what is happening on a huge scale in coastal Louisiana.”

IMG-20131115-00611Other speakers included Charles Allen, Director of the City of New Orleans’ Office of Coastal and Environmental Affairs; Arthur Johnson, Executive Director of the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development; and Amanda Moore, Greater New Orleans Program Manager for the National Wildlife Federation, speaking on behalf of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition.

Get involved! Check out Restore the Mississippi River Delta’s Facebook album of photos from the unveiling event, and visit www.restorethebayou.org to learn more about the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle and coastal restoration efforts.

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Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign volunteers plant 250 trees in Big Mar basin

November 7, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Meetings/Events, Restoration Projects

By Theryn Henkel, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation

Since 2009, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF) has been actively documenting the development of an emergent delta in the receiving basin, Big Mar, of the Caernarvon Diversion outfall canal on the east side of the Mississippi River south of New Orleans. Since October 2010, in partnership with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL), LPBF has conducted tree plantings within Big Mar as part of a Restore the Earth Foundation grant-funded reforestation effort, called 10,000 Trees for Louisiana.

Volunteers and staff planted a total of 250 trees at five different sites.

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana conducted a 7th tree planting in Big Mar on October 28, 2013. This planting was conducted as a restoration event opportunity for members of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign. All of the volunteers were people who work on various parts of the campaign and included staff from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Foundation, LPBF and CRCL.

Twenty-five people, including 18 volunteers and 7 staff, planted a total of 250 trees at five different sites. Two of the sites, with 25 trees planted at each, are demonstration sites. If trees grow successfully at these locations, then future plantings will occur there with many more trees. 125 bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) and 125 water tupelo trees (Nyssa aquatica) were planted. Photos from the event can be seen on the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Facebook page and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Facebook page.

The focus of these volunteer events is to plant trees that will abate and reduce storm surge. Big Mar is located directly in front of the newly built Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System Levees,  and a thriving cypress forest will provide some protection to this levee system by buffering storm surge. Big Mar is also located in front of the Braithwaite community, which is outside the federal levee system but has local levees that were overtopped and breached during Hurricane Isaac. A swamp forest in front of that community would provide some storm surge attenuation benefit. Additionally, monitoring the growth of these trees under the influence of the Caernarvon Diversion, at different distances from the diversion, will provide valuable information for future restoration projects. The work being done around the Caernarvon Delta Complex provides a unique opportunity to test the effectiveness of many proposed 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan restoration initiatives, which rely heavily on river diversions.

Ultimately, if the data bears out and the hypothesis is true that the sediment delivered by river diversions builds land – and that the fresh water flowing into a receiving basin lowers soil salinity and the nutrients associated with river water increase growth rates – then this information could be used to manage river diversions more effectively in the future in an effort to do what they are supposed to do, which is to build wetlands that will help sustain coastal Louisiana and protect its people and communities from devastating storm surges.

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Basics of the Basin research symposium discusses past, present and future of the Pontchartrain Basin

November 6, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Mardi Gras Pass, Meetings/Events, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, Science

By Shannon Hood and Estelle S. Robichaux, Environmental Defense Fund

On October 24-25, 2013, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF) hosted its 11th Basics of the Basin research symposium. Scientists and researchers from academia, non-profit organizations, private consulting groups and federal and state agencies gathered at the University of New Orleans (UNO) on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain to discuss the past, present and future issues of the Pontchartrain Basin. LPBF has hosted these biennial symposiums since 1992, providing an opportunity for students and established researchers alike to share and discuss the most up-to-date research on the restoration and management of Louisiana’s Pontchartrain Basin.

After opening remarks by Dr. John Lopez, executive director of LPBF, the plenary continued with comments and presentations from Phil Turnipseed of the U.S. Geological Survey; Dr. Ioannis Georgiou, Director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences at UNO; and Dr. Chip Groat, President and CEO of The Water Institute of the Gulf, among others. The conference was grouped into seven general session topics, including hydrodynamic modeling, water quality, storm surge protection, river diversions, wetland restoration, the Central Wetlands Unit and fisheries. Because of the diversity of environmental concerns within the Pontchartrain Basin, broad, interdisciplinary research is essential to effective system-wide restoration and management.

Understanding the present condition of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin requires a look into the history of the lake itself. Dr. Oliver Houck, professor at the Tulane University Law School, provided the storied account of the history of Lake Pontchartrain during his keynote speech. He spoke of the lake’s days as a hot spot for recreation, as well as its decline during the years when the lake was dredged for the clam shells that lined the bottom. This dredging caused a rapid decline in the health and suitability of this lake for wildlife habitat and for recreation. A few brave souls recognized the trauma that the lake was enduring and took on the task of halting the dredging to allow the lake to begin to heal. Through years of dedication, lawsuits and creative thinking, the dredging was successfully stopped, and the healing process began.

Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation’s original research was well represented at the conference, with 14 presentations in six different sessions. Eva Hillman presented LBPF’s research into the salinity levels found within wetland soils in the Central Wetlands Unit (CWU), just west of New Orleans. Construction of the nearby Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) in 1968 allowed salt water to easily enter these previously freshwater wetlands and lead to severe deterioration of the CWU wetlands. Although the MRGO has been closed since 2009, much of the area still remains highly degraded. LPBF scientists are monitoring soil salinity throughout the CWU to inform restoration efforts, specifically re-vegetation projects.

Mardi Gras Pass, March 2012. Credit: LPBF

Research conducted by LPBF scientists on Mardi Gras Pass, a new and evolving distributary of the Mississippi River, was also on display. Dr. Theryn Henkel presented preliminary research on where the fresh water and sediment from Mardi Gras Pass is going once it enters the receiving basin. Results from this study indicate that the deposition of sediment happens well before the influence of fresh water on salinity levels in the receiving basin is no longer observed, and that sediment travels further into the northern areas of the basin than it does to the south. Andreas Moshogianis presented the preliminary findings of ongoing biological assessments in Mardi Gras Pass, most notably that a range of both fresh- and saltwater fishes have been caught during these assessments, often in the same net. LPBF’s research on Mardi Gras Pass is important because it has implications for future restoration efforts throughout coastal Louisiana, as scientists and citizens work to reconnect the Mississippi River with its delta.

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Recap of Wednesday's Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study Technical Meeting

October 25, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Diversions, Meetings/Events, Restoration Projects, Science

By Alisha Renfro, Coastal Scientist, National Wildlife Federation

The Mississippi River is one of the most managed river systems in the world. However, that management has focused on navigation and flood control needs to the detriment of the economically and ecologically important coastal Louisiana landscape. This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) hosted a public meeting in New Orleans to present information and preliminary results of their joint effort on the Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study. This large-scale, long-term study is developing tools to evaluate different combinations of restoration projects in an effort to address the long-term sustainability of the Mississippi River and its delta while balancing the needs of navigation, flood protection and restoration.

The scope of the study extends from Vicksburg, Miss. south to the Bird’s Foot delta. The study is actually comprised of two coupled, but somewhat distinct, efforts. The hydrodynamic portion of the study will focus on characterizing the dynamics in the river and developing models that can be used to evaluate river-side changes due to proposed freshwater and sediment diversion projects. It will also inform location and design of these projects to maximize their effectiveness and minimize the potential for shoaling in the river’s navigation channel. The delta management part of the study will focus on the basin-side benefits and changes caused by these restoration projects. The delta management portion of the study has not yet begun. Currently, the state of Louisiana and the Army Corps are working to define the depth and breadth of that part of the study.

The afternoon session of the meeting focused on detailed technical presentations on the study. The different tasks of the Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study include a geomorphic assessment, data collection and an extensive modeling effort. The geomorphic assessment focuses on compiling historical river data, dredging records and satellite imagery to document the historical trends in the river. The data collection effort will compile existing data and conduct field work to fill in gaps in understanding of the water and sediment dynamics that currently exist in the river. The historical data and present data will be integrated into the modeling work to inform the models and to ensure that the models capture the dynamics of the river system. The modeling effort includes a suite of models that each has different strengths and weaknesses. These models will be used to forecast the large-scale, long-term and shorter-term regional changes expected in the river in both a future without river diversions and a future that includes different combinations of diversion projects.

The presentations from the technical meeting indicate that this collaborative state of Louisiana and Army Corps effort has moved forward significantly since it began. The geomorphic assessment has been completed and a final report on its results is expected by the end of this year. The data collection effort is ongoing, having captured the low discharge of the river last year and the higher flow discharge from this past spring. Many of the preliminary model simulations have begun, and the preliminary results presented at this meeting emphasized the dynamic nature of the Mississippi River system, where water discharge, sediment transport and deposition can not only vary greatly from year to year, but also from week to week. The preliminary results also point to the importance of appropriate size, location and operation of sediment diversions in order to maximize sediment conveyance into adjacent wetlands and to reduce potential riverside impacts.

The Mississippi River has been a key feature in the growth and development of the U.S. However, for more than 80 years, the management of the river has focused on balancing the needs of navigation and flood control. A shift away from that management scheme towards one that balances navigation, flood control and restoration is absolutely critical for the survival of the delta ecosystem and, ultimately, the communities and navigation industry that depend on the Mississippi River Delta. The Hydrodynamic and Delta Management study is poised to be the effort that changes the way we think about management of the river and how we build a more sustainable, holistic system for our future.

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Register Now: Basics of the Basin 2013 Research Symposium, Oct. 24 & 25

October 15, 2013 | Posted by Ashley Peters in Meetings/Events

BASICS OF THE BASIN 2013 RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation will host the 11th Basics of the Basin Research Symposium on October 24th and 25th.

Register online as soon as possible. 

Registration Fees*:
Until October 18th: $75
After October 18th: $85
Students: $50
Event Day registration must be check or credit card. NO CASH please.

*Fees include continental breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack for both days and an open bar reception on October 24th.

Location:
Lindy Boggs Conference Center
2045 Lakeshore Drive
New Orleans, LA 70122

Agenda:
DRAFT Agenda is available. Please note this agenda is subject to change. The final agenda will be posted as soon as it is available. If you have any problems opening the agenda, please contact Theryn Henkel.

Contact Information: 
For more information, please contact Theryn Henkel at therynhenkel@gmail.com or (504)308-3470.

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“A Prairie Home Companion” Oct. 12 Broadcast to be Co-sponsored by Mississippi River Delta Restoration

October 11, 2013 | Posted by Ashley Peters in Meetings/Events

The Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition is co-sponsoring the October 12 broadcast of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” from the restored and newly reopened Saenger Theatre in New Orleans. The Saenger was one of many historic buildings severely damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005; its reopening is an example of how the Delta region is still working to fully come back from challenges to its local environment and economy like major storms and the Gulf oil disaster.

The $52 million redevelopment, restoration and reopening of the Saenger also highlights the importance of a healthy Mississippi River Delta, as the region’s wetlands and barrier islands are essential to protect the people, wildlife and local economies of Louisiana.

“A Prairie Home Companion,” began broadcasting from Minnesota in 1974 and now has a weekly national audience of 4 million listeners. Local public radio station WWNO, 89.9 FM is hosting the broadcast, which is live at 5 pm Central on Saturday. Tune in to wwno.org to listen live.

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Timeline of the Gulf Oil Disaster: Make BP Restore

October 1, 2013 | Posted by Ryan Rastegar in BP Oil Disaster, Media Resources, Meetings/Events, Videos

Yesterday, September 30, 2013, as phase II of the 2010 BP oil spill civil trial began in New Orleans, members of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign gathered outside the courthouse to demand BP be held fully accountable for the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

At 6:30 am, we debuted a brand new BP oil spill timeline video LIVE outside the courthouse on a 16-foot, high definition LED billboard in an effort to highlight the ongoing need for restoration and to publicly hold BP accountable. The video screen, which was adorned with a giant banner atop saying "#makeBPrestore," will be directly outside the U.S. District Courthouse in New Orleans for the first two days of the BP trial playing our video on constant loop. Check out the video below. Please LIKE the video and SHARE it so that we may send a strong, unified message that it's time for BP to restore the Gulf.

Sample tweet: Detailed timeline of the @BP_America Oil Disaster [VIDEO] Learn why we must #makeBPrestore in phase II of #bptrial http://bit.ly/19Q3sjQ

And click the photo below to see an album of photos from the day!

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