Archive for Meetings/Events

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


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.

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

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 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 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

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

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Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council approves Initial Comprehensive Plan

September 6, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Meetings/Events, RESTORE Act, Science

By Estelle Robichaux, Environmental Defense Fund

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council meeting in New Orleans.

Last week, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council held a public meeting in New Orleans to vote on its Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy. The RESTORE Act, signed into law in July 2012, established the Council and tasked it with, among other duties, creating a long-term ecosystem restoration plan for the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

In his opening remarks, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (Council member and host of the meeting) spoke of the many natural and human-caused disasters that have afflicted Louisiana in recent years: Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and Isaac; and, of course, the BP oil disaster.

Jindal highlighted the need to move restoration projects forward and not let the bureaucratic process delay implementation of projects that have already been sufficiently vetted. Jindal stated he had “directed state officials to commit 100 percent of Louisiana’s RESTORE Act funding to ecosystem restoration and community resilience projects associated with our Master Plan.” While the governor acknowledged Transocean for stepping up by paying their Clean Water Act fines, he called on BP to stop spending millions of dollars in public relations, claiming that they have spent more money on television commercials than on actual restoration, while there are still 200 miles of oiled shoreline along the Gulf Coast.

David Muth, National Wildlife Federation

The chair of the Council, newly appointed Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, spoke following Jindal and stated, “the Gulf Region is part of who we are as Americans” and the Council wants “the world to see the Gulf Coast as a wonderful place to visit, work, play, and live.” Although the Comprehensive Plan in its current iteration is still very general, the Secretary took this opportunity to affirm that science will be integral in the decision-making process. She emphasized that the Council was committed to moving forward with the planning and restoration process, despite uncertainties about the ultimate amount or timing of available funds. The desire for momentum was underscored by the Council’s stated goal to begin selecting and funding projects within the next 12 months.

Justin Ehrenwerth, Executive Director of the Council, presented an overview of the Plan and discussed next steps before the Council unanimously voted to pass the Initial Comprehensive Plan and accompanying documents, including the Programmatic Environmental Assessment, Finding of No Significant Impact and Response to Public Comments. Mimi Drew (Chair of the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustee Council), Thomas Kelsch (Vice President of National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund) and Russ Beard (Acting Director of the RESTORE Act Science Program) gave overviews of their respective programs and how they anticipate coordinating with the Council and the Comprehensive Plan as it moves forward.

Doug Meffert, National Audubon Society

More than 50 people spoke during the meeting’s public comment portion, which was notably held after the Council had already voted to accept the plan. Many residents of Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states traveled to New Orleans to have their voices heard. Most of them, having watched the natural areas around their lifelong homes degrade in recent years, encouraged, supported and even pleaded with the Council to move forward urgently with Gulf Coast restoration. In the words of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign’s own David Muth: “Delay is the enemy.”

Some individuals tried to further impress upon the Council the damage that had been done to the Gulf ecosystem, pointing to evidence of the continued presence of oil slicks and suspicious absence of wildlife around Mississippi Canyon block 252, where the Deepwater Horizon oil platform was located. Several staff members and experts from our Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign gave statements to the Council, reminding them that Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan is “not a perfect plan, but it is absolutely the best approach to coastal restoration that has been done.”

Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan was developed using a science-based process and examines both present-day and likely-future conditions of the coast. The Master Plan provides a model for how restoration should be addressed Gulf-wide, and the Council should work with Louisiana to prioritize restoration projects set forth in the state’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan.

Steve Cochran, Environmental Defense Fund

One of the most passionate speakers, who created the most poignant moment during the almost four-hour-long meeting, was 10-year-old Sean Turner. Sean, the youngest Conservation Pro Staff member of Vanishing Paradise, spoke with conviction about saving coastal Louisiana. “I want to save the coast,” said Sean. “I go fishing. I go hunting. That’s why I care. I want to stay here because Louisiana is Sportsman’s Paradise.” You can watch a video of Sean giving his comments here.

The next crucial step for the Council will be selecting projects that are consistent with the restoration priorities criteria defined in the RESTORE Act and will benefit and restore Gulf Coast ecosystems. The RESTORE Act requires that these projects be designed, selected, prioritized, and implemented using the best available science.

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Oyster Reef Workshop, August 7-8 in New Orleans

August 6, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Meetings/Events

The Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign

Invites You to Attend the



When: August 7 and 8, 2013

Where: University of New Orleans
Research and Technology Park
Lindy Boggs International Conference Center, Room 152
2045 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, LA 70122

The workshop is free to attend, however, please register by sending an email to including your name and affiliation.

Conference materials will be archived at following the workshop.

Presented by:



August 7

8:30 am:   Opening Remarks, Loren Coen, Research Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University

9:00 am – 10:10 am: 

Session 1: Historic and current extent of oyster reefs in Louisiana and geologic setting

9:00 am     R. Condrey (Retired – LSU DOCS) – Louisiana’s vast offshore oyster reef ca. 1519-1807, an internationally prominent navigational hazard defining, building, and protecting the coast: Independent eyewitness accounts of Barroto, Evia, Dumain, and Lafon supported by Charlevoix and Chavez

9:15 am     E. Melancon (Nicholls)A Review of major oyster habitat studies in Louisiana from the Late 19th through the 20th century

9:30 am    P. Banks (LDWF) – Geographic extent of public oyster areas and private oyster leases in Louisiana

9:45 am    S. Gagliano (CEI), M. Gagliano and B. Kappel – Oysters as a geological agent

10:00 am  Questions/Discussion

10:10 am BREAK

10:20 am – 11:30 am

Session 2: Oyster reef ecology and ecological benefits to other fisheries

10:20 am   L. Coen (FAU) - An overview of current oyster reef ecology and restoration efforts across the U.S. with a focus on related goals, metrics and methodologies

10:50 am   A. Humphries (Rhodes U), L. Schwarting and M. LaPeyre – If you build it, will they come? Oyster reef restoration and associated fishery use

11:05 am   K. Brown (LSU) – Effect of artificial reef substrate on nekton and commensal abundance

11:20 am    Questions/Discussion

11:30 am   LUNCH

Key Note Speaker: John Tesvich, President of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force: A Louisiana Oyster Industry Perspective on Charting a Path Forward in Uncertain Times

12:30 pm – 1:40 pm

Session 3: Technical nature of reefs

12:30 pm   T. Soniat (UNO) - Oyster reef restoration and sustainable fishing: shell budgets as a confluent methodology

12:45 pm   J. Risinger (MWH Americas Inc.)Artificial reefs as coastal breakwaters

1:00 pm     B. Webb (USA) – Laboratory measurements and field observations of wave attenuation by living shoreline reefs

1:15 pm     N. Love (TNC) and B. Piazza - Different approaches to assess the shoreline stabilization function of bioengineered reefs

1:30 pm    Questions/Discussion

1:40 pm    BREAK

1:50 pm – 3:00 pm

Session 4: Project Development

1:50 pm     S. Blitch (TNC)How TNC has selected sites in the past, and what we will do differently in the future

2:05 pm     A. Freeman (EDF) and H. Roberts – A geological approach to the evaluation and creation of oyster habitat

2:20 pm     L. Baggett (USA) – Developing universal metrics and criteria for judging the performance of oyster restoration projects

2:35 pm     L. Coen (FAU) – Developing "restoration-goal based metrics" for judging the performance of oyster restoration projects

2:50 pm     Questions/Discussion

3:00 pm     BREAK

3:10 pm – 4:05 pm

Session 5: Permitting, legality and liability for artificial reefs

3:10 pm     K. Morgan (LDNR) - Permitting for Oyster Reef Projects

3:25 pm     S. Blitch (TNC) and L. Robinson - Assessing Risk in Oyster Restoration Projects

3:40 pm     I. Brown (LSU) - Artificial Reefs and Liability

3:55 pm     Questions/Discussion

4:05 pm     BREAK

4:15 pm – 5:15 pm

Plenary: Oyster Reefs and the State Master Plan

4:15 – 4:35  Natalie Peyronnin, CPRA –  Oyster reef restoration as a tool in the 2012 and 2017 Coastal Master Plans

4:35 – 4:50  John Lopez, LPBFValue of oyster reefs in the context of the Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy

4:50 -  Discussion Panel – Panelists: Natalie Peyronnin, John Lopez and Sherwood Gagliano


  • Should the State Mater Plan expand the definition of oyster reefs to all reef types?
  • What should the State consider when siting a new oyster reef project?
  • Since the decision drivers of the State Master Plan are risk and land building, how should we evaluate reefs ability to provide habitat for specific species?
  • Where should the Sate target oyster reef restoration?
  • Should the State protect critical oyster reefs?                    

August 8

9:00 am – 11:30am

Session 6: Indepth review of three oyster reef restoration projects

9:00 am     M. LaPeyre (LSU), A. Humphries, S. Casas and J. LaPeyre – Development of ecological services on created shell oyster reefs in coastal Louisiana

9:45 am     BREAK

9:50 am     A. Smith Kyle (TNC), L. Schwarting (LSU), M. Gagliano (CEI)A partnership to protect Louisiana coastal shoreline and create jobs by building oyster reefs

10:35 am   BREAK

10:40 am   E. Melancon (Nicholls) and G. Curole – Mid-Term assessment of CWPPRA Project TE-45: Shoreline stabilization and oyster reef development

11:30 am LUNCH

Key Note Speaker: Loren D. Coen, Ph.D. Research Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic  University

An Overview of Approaches for Mapping and Assessing Intertidal and Subtidal Oyster Habitat: Don't We Need to Know What We've Got Before Its Gone (or We Need to Know What We Have Before We Can Assess What We Lost and Begin to Restore Reefs).

12:30 pm – 1:55 pm

Session 7: Oyster reef restoration: Hatchery, ecological and commercial programs and perspectives

12:30 am   J. Supan (LA Sea Grant/LSU)Hatchery production in oyster restoration

12:45 pm   P. Banks (LDWF)History of Commercial Oyster Reef-Building Activities by LDWF

1:00 pm     T. Ortego (Wayfarer Environmental Technologies)Engineered Oyster Reef Wave Attenuation on the Gulf Shoreline

1:15 pm     M. Lapeyre (LSU), J. Furlong, L. Brown, B. Piazza and K. Brown – Oyster reef restoration in the Northern Gulf of Mexico: extent, methods, outcomes

1:30 pm    Dennis Barkemeyer (HESCO) - Constructing submerged living breakwaters with oyster shells

1:45 pm    Questions/Discussion

1:55 pm    BREAK

2:10 pm – 3:10 pm

Session 8: Plenary – Lessons learned from oyster reef restoration projects

Panelists: M. LaPeyre, A. Smith Kyle, E. Meloncon, P. Banks, M. Gagliano

3:10 pm      BREAK

3:20 pm – 4:20 pm

Session 9: Wrap up discussion – Future of artificial reefs

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Senate hearing reviews Gulf Coast oil spill restoration efforts

June 10, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, Meetings/Events, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act, Senator Mary Landrieu

By Will Lindsey, Environmental Defense Fund

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing Thursday (June 6) to review the progress that has been made to restore the Gulf Coast since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) chaired the hearing, titled “Gulf Restoration: A Progress Report Three Years after the Deepwater Horizon Disaster.” The hearing came nearly a year after passage of the RESTORE Act, legislation that allocates 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties from the 2010 oil spill to Gulf restoration. Both senators were cosponsors of the legislation.

Seven witnesses testified at the hearing, representing organizations responsible for managing these restoration funds – as well as the projects that will utilize these funds – that will soon begin flowing through three funding streams as a result of the 2010 spill. These streams include $2.54 billion resulting from the BP criminal settlement, an initial $800 million as a result of a Transocean settlement and $1 billion as a result of agreements with BP to fund early restoration efforts under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process. The amount of funds available under the RESTORE Act is expected to grow substantially once the ongoing civil trials with BP are complete.

Notably, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who played a vital role in passing the RESTORE Act, gave the opening remarks. In reference to the need to better understand the Gulf Coast in order to implement restoration efforts, Landrieu said, “Science can make us much better leaders, if we would just listen to our scientists and to the actual research.” Following these opening remarks, each witness provided an oral testimony on the efforts their individual organizations have taken since the spill.

In response to the first testimony by Lois Schiffer, General Counsel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sen. Nelson stressed Congress’s expectation that the administrative agencies involved with the implementation of restoration projects follow the legislative intent of Congress in enacting the law. “One of the things that we want to emphasize here is that we want you to pay attention to the law,” Nelson said. The statement came in reference to a previous comment by Sen. Landrieu indicating that the law was written in order to strike a balance between competing interests and thus a portion of the law specifically allocates a percentage of the funds solely to environmental restoration.

In the final testimony, Dr. Stephen Polasky, professor of environmental economics at the University of Minnesota, emphasized the importance of the RESTORE Act and the funding that it will provide to Gulf restoration. “Under the RESTORE Act, we can reinvest in nature to ensure the recovery of the Gulf of Mexico, so that it continues to provide benefits to current and future generations,” said Polasky.

Moving forward, it appears that Congress will be paying encouragingly close attention to the ways in which the Gulf Coast restoration money from these different funding streams is being spent. Also encouraging is the apparent intention of the recipients of these funds to work together to ensure that comprehensive restoration remains a key focal point of the ongoing efforts along the Gulf Coast. As Rachel Jacobson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the Department of Interior, stated in her testimony, “We have a responsibility to the public to ensure that we make wise investments that are well-coordinated across the spectrum, through all funding streams.”

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VIDEO: 3 Years Later, Make BP Pay

May 9, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Meetings/Events, Videos

On April 20, 2010, 11 people lost their lives and the biggest environmental disaster in our nation's history began. Three years later, BP's oil is still here, and it continues to impact the people, places and wildlife of the Gulf.

On April 20, 2013, to mark three years of BP's ongoing disaster, local groups and citizens gathered to memorialize all that has been lost, call out BP for the ongoing effects of the spill, and take a stand to fight for justice in the Gulf.

Below is our video from that event. Watch it and share it, and be sure to follow the link at the end to take action to tell BP it's time to pay!

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