Archive for Meetings/Events
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 email@example.com.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
By Estelle Robichaux, Environmental Defense Fund
The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) hosted its 2014 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference January 26-29 in Mobile, Ala. GoMRI was created soon after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster when BP committed $500 million over 10 years to fund a broad, independent research program with the purpose of studying the environmental and public health impacts of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The conference drew several hundred attendees from academia, state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations who gathered to hear presentations on cutting-edge research about the impacts of the Gulf oil disaster and continuing socio-ecological recovery. This conference, the second of its kind, facilitates interdisciplinary discussion by giving GoMRI-funded researchers from many different fields an opportunity to come together.
The four-day event entailed around 150 oral presentations in 10 different sessions, more than 400 poster presentations and nearly a dozen other associated meetings, events and plenary sessions. Some of the conference sessions were very technical, including transportation of oil spill residues (i.e., tar balls and tar mats) and dispersants, and impacts of the oil spill on fisheries, coastal marshes and nearshore water ecosystems. Other sessions were technological, focusing on ecosystem monitoring and data management, while others examined the human side, looking at public health and socio-economic issues.
Some of the research coming out of the Coastal Waters Consortium is particularly interesting because it goes beyond the physical and chemical impacts of the spill, focusing on broader ecological issues such as coastal processes and food webs. Dr. Sabrina Taylor is the principle investigator looking at the post-spill reproductive success, survival and dispersal of the Seaside sparrow, a bird that lives its entire life on salt marsh and is very sensitive to environmental changing, making it an excellent “indicator species.”
Dr. Christy Bergeron Burns presented preliminary results showing less species abundance and less reproductive productivity for the Seaside sparrow in oiled versus unoiled areas of Barataria Bay, La. While the trend in abundance was less pronounced in 2013 than it was in 2012, the trends in reproductive indicators (number of nests, failed nests and fledglings) remained consistent. With more data to collect in 2014, this study has not yet reached any final conclusions. But these preliminary results are prompting questions that are shaping the ongoing research to determine the factors that are causing these trends: Has exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons or PAHs – compounds found in crude oil – directly impacted the bird’s reproductive success and habitat selection? Is PAH exposure, or environmental stress in general, affecting hormone levels in this species? Or has the primary food source of the birds – insects – been impacted by the spill somehow, indirectly affecting reproductive success and habitat selection of the Seaside sparrow?
After scientifically assessing the correlation of ecological changes to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, researchers will dig deeper to understand what has actually caused these changes. Continued collection and analysis of data will give the scientific community a clearer, evidence-based picture of how the oil spill affected specific components of the Gulf ecosystem. But the Gulf Coast region will not get the most benefit from this extensive research until scientists have started to develop a more comprehensive, ecosystem-wide understanding of how the oil spill has impacted the Gulf of Mexico.No Comments
Media Advisory for Feb. 20: “Bayou Sundance” Documentary to Premiere in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth WardFebruary 14, 2014 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Media Resources, Meetings/Events
Media Advisory for Thursday, February 20, 2014
Contact: Arthur Johnson, The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, 504.421.9643, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Bayou Sundance” Documentary to Premiere in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward
Provocative film details history of Bayou Bienvenue through eyes of community elders and youth
The Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle is a degraded bald cypress swamp just north of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Over the past 50 years, human activity has caused the swamp and surrounding ecosystem to erode, increasing the city’s vulnerability to storms and contributing to catastrophic damage during Hurricane Katrina.
Through the eyes of community elders and youth, “Bayou Sundance” documents the history of the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle, including the decline of nearby wetlands, resulting impacts and the area’s movement toward rebirth. This powerful story captures the importance of urban wetlands, natural storm protection for coastal cities and serves as a historical environmental justice case study.
You are invited to join us for the premiere of “Bayou Sundance” and to learn more about the future of Bayou Bienvenue and the importance of coastal restoration to both the city of New Orleans and the state. Light dinner will be served.
This film is a product of The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development with support from Environmental Defense Fund and National Wildlife Federation.
Film Screening and Panel Details:
WHAT: Film screening and Q&A panel with filmmakers and producers
WHEN: Thursday, February 20, 6-7:30 p.m. CT
WHERE: All Soul’s Community Center
5500 St. Claude Avenue
Lower Ninth Ward
New Orleans, LA 70117
WHO: Arthur Johnson: Executive Director, The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development and Producer of "Bayou Sundance"
Happy Johnson: Teacher, Author and Co-Director of "Bayou Sundance"
Amanda Moore: Greater New Orleans Program Manager, National Wildlife Federation
By Alisha A. Renfro, Ph.D., National Wildlife Federation
Last week in Baton Rouge, The Water Institute of the Gulf hosted the inaugural meeting of the Expert Panel on Diversion Planning and Implementation. The panel – comprised of 12 experts in natural and social sciences, engineering and economics – was selected from more than 60 nominees from across the country. Panel members are all from outside Louisiana, in order to foster critical and constructive review of work being led by Louisiana-based experts. Under the direction of The Water Institute of the Gulf and meeting up to three times a year, this independent panel will provide technical review, input and guidance as the state moves forward and refines its plans for diverting fresh water and sediment from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers to build, maintain and sustain coastal wetlands. For this first meeting, the panel was asked to consider the most suitable approaches to addressing current or perceived uncertainties in the planning and design of sediment diversions.
The first day of this meeting was open to the public and included a series of presentations outlining the urgent need for restoration in coastal Louisiana as well as various perspectives on sediment diversions. Kyle Graham, Deputy Executive Director of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), summarized Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan. In his presentation, Graham pointed out that there was no single restoration project type that can address the state’s land-loss crisis in one fell swoop, but that a suite of restoration projects are needed, including barrier island restoration, marsh creation, oyster barrier reefs, shoreline protection, hydrologic restoration and sediment diversions. Barrier island restoration and marsh creation can mechanically create land in strategic locations, but sediment diversions convey sediment to not only build new land but also to maintain existing wetlands that would otherwise be lost.
Brigadier General Duke DeLuca, Commander of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division, presented the Corps’ perspective on sediment diversions. DeLuca discussed some of the questions that the Corps would like to see answered as sediment diversions move from plan to implementation. Many of these outstanding questions should be directly addressed through the Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study, a joint project being conducted by the State of Louisiana and the Corps. The study will use historic and field data, along with models, to do an assessment of large-scale restoration features to address sustainability of the Mississippi River Delta.
Additional presenters included Jim Tripp from Environmental Defense Fund, Michael Massimi from the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, Dr. Ehab Mesehle from The Water Institute of the Gulf and Dr. Alaa Ali from South Florida Water Management District.
In a late afternoon panel, Mark Wingate and Martin Mayer of the Corps’ New Orleans District, John Ettinger of the Environmental Protection Agency and Ronnie Paille of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, discussed their federal agencies’ views on diversions. Afterwards, the public was given the opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns about coastal restoration directly to the panel.
The following day, panel members met in private to discuss the uncertainties discussed and the science that needs to be done to address these uncertainties. A report on that meeting will be given at a CPRA meeting in the coming months.
Bold solutions are needed to halt the rate of catastrophic land loss in coastal Louisiana. Every year, communities throughout the coast inch closer to disaster, becoming more and more exposed to the destructive forces of storm events. Infrastructure, which is vitally important to the economy of Louisiana and the nation, becomes more vulnerable, and important habitat for wildlife, fish and birds vanishes.
Limited by money and sediment resources, there is no one type of restoration project that is a cure-all solution. A suite of restoration projects that strengthen and sustain the landscape is necessary. Sediment diversions use the natural power of the river to build new land and help maintain the existing wetlands. To do nothing or to only implement the least challenging types of restoration projects would doom the resource-rich Louisiana coast.No Comments