Archive for Mississippi River Gulf Outlet


The Billion Dollar Question: Who pays for MRGO ecosystem restoration?

December 10, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation

Last Tuesday, the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority authorized the state attorney general to file suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to get the federal government to pick up 100 percent of the expense for the federal plan for ecosystem restoration of damage caused by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). Since 2008, there has been an ongoing dispute between the state and the Corps involving interpretation of Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) of 2007 legislation, in which Congress directed the Corps to develop a plan for restoration of the MRGO ecosystem at full federal expense.

The $3 billion plan, mandated for completion by May of 2008, was finally completed in 2012. Yet, there is still disagreement over what cost share Congress intended, leaving this critical federal restoration effort at a standstill. The state contends that construction is a 100 percent federal expense, while the Corps contends that the typical cost share on restoration projects, 65 percent federal and 35 percent state, applies. This billion dollar question will now be determined by a judge.

Degraded marsh at lower end of the Central Wetlands near the MRGO.

Degraded marsh at lower end of the Central Wetlands near the MRGO.

The MRGO Must Go Coalition, a group of 17 conservation and neighborhood organizations working since 2006 to see the MRGO closed and the ecosystem restored, has researched this cost share issue for several years. We believe that Congress intended  for the MRGO projects under WRDA to be at 100 percent federal cost for construction, responding to the catastrophic flooding of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish during Katrina and the devastating role the MRGO played in this event.

Given the extent and urgency of the restoration needs, however, we call on the state of Louisiana, the Corps and potentially other federal agencies to work together to identify all available funding sources and ensure restoration moves forward in a timely manner. All parties involved should be present to work, first and foremost, to ensure timely implementation of comprehensive MRGO ecosystem restoration, as mandated by Congress. We are painfully aware that, every day, the MRGO ecosystem further deteriorates and communities remain at risk.

We welcome this opportunity for the federal court to resolve the cost share dispute. But no matter how the ruling comes down, the bigger question remains: Where will the funds come from to pay for the $3 billion in restoration projects outlined in the MRGO ecosystem restoration plan? Billions of dollars will have to be appropriated by Congress. It is our job, as stakeholders in the resiliency and safety of the Greater New Orleans Area and as citizens who care about justice being served for the communities and ecosystem torn apart by the MRGO, to ensure that our leaders in Congress clearly understand the importance of this restoration effort and that they find the will to get it done. Learn more and take action at www.MRGOmustGO.org.

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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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Media Advisory: Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle Signage Unveiling and Press Conference

November 7, 2013 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in Media Resources, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

Media Advisory for Friday, November 15, 2013

Contact:
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Erin Greeson, National Audubon Society, 503.913-8978, egreeson@audubon.org
Arthur Johnson, The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, 504.421.9643, ajohnson@sustainthenine.org

Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle Signage Unveiling and Press Conference

New educational, interactive signs teach visitors about need for coastal restoration

Each year, thousands of people visit the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle viewing platform in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. New signage to be unveiled Nov. 15 will help these visitors and residents alike understand what they are seeing when they look out over a cypress ghost swamp in the backyard of a community devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Visitors will learn why the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle is important to the community, what has happened to the area since construction of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) and how the Triangle serves as a portal to the larger land loss issues facing Louisiana’s coast. This signage project is a product of The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED), Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

Press Conference Details:

WHAT: Press conference, signage unveiling and photo and interview opportunities.

WHEN: Friday, November 15, 10:00 a.m. CT

WHERE: Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle Viewing Platform
Florida Ave at Caffin Ave
Lower 9th Ward
New Orleans, LA 70117 ‎

WHO:
Garret Graves, Chair, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana
Charles Allen, Director, Office of Coastal and Environmental Affairs, City of New Orleans
James Austin Gray II, Councilmember, New Orleans City Council
Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, Councilmember-at-Large, New Orleans City Council (Invited)
Arthur Johnson, Executive Director, The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development
Amanda Moore, Greater New Orleans Program Manager, National Wildlife Federation

More information about the signs:
While at the viewing platform, visitors will have numerous opportunities to interact with the signs and the natural area around them. They can scan a QR code with their smartphones and watch videos about Bayou Bienvenue and other coastal restoration projects on the accompanying website. Visitors can use their phones to sign an action alert or text “BAYOU” to donate to the CSED’s coastal outreach program, call to listen to locals and coastal experts further discuss the coastal crisis facing Louisiana, sign up for volunteer opportunities with local organizations, as well as sign an electronic guestbook via Instagram.

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WHO WE ARE: The Restore the Mississippi River Delta coalition is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of threatening land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Comprised of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, we are located in Houma, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. See more at www.mississippiriverdelta.org.

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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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The Power of We: The Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign

October 15, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Meetings/Events, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, People, RESTORE Act

By Happy Johnson, Amanda Moore and Elizabeth Skree

Our Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign works to reconnect the Mississippi River to its delta to protect people, wildlife and jobs. At our core, we are the “Power of We”: a coalition of five national and local non-governmental organizations — the National Audubon Society, Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – working together to save a national treasure: the Mississippi River Delta.

The Mississippi River Delta is losing an area of land the size of one football field every hour. Yes, you read that right. Turning the tide on wetland loss, which totals over 1,900 square miles since the 1930s, is no small feat. To take on this task, we turn to the Power of We.

Whether it’s by supporting our nation’s fisheries, vital wildlife habitat, trade routes or energy production, the Mississippi River Delta is important to the entire country. Here in the delta and across the nation, citizens are learning more and more about the crisis in the delta and taking action to help restore the area. Locally, our campaign works to engage area residents throughout their neighborhoods. Together, we rally. Together, we hold press conferences. We release reports. We host public forums that empower citizens to speak directly to their legislators, state officials and federal agencies about moving restoration forward. We harness the Power of We to make change.

Community Conversations on Coastal Restoration

This year we organized a series of community conversations to enhance and increase coastal competency in Louisiana urban areas. Those gatherings provided an informal outlet to openly discuss the comprehensive challenges and opportunities as a result of staggering wetland loss. In particular, people were interested in how they can become advocates and participate in the emerging job market created by coastal restoration investment.

MRGO must go

The Power of We shines in one major delta project: restoring tens of thousands of acres of protective wetlands just southeast of New Orleans destroyed by a federal shipping channel, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (also known as the “MRGO” or “Mister Go”). Since Hurricane Katrina, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with local landowners, local government, academia, local neighborhood associations and national environmental organizations to advocate for closure of the shipping channel (which happened in 2009) and for a strong restoration plan for the area. We worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in planning, and in the last few years alone, we’ve generated over 75,000 comments to the agency calling for urgent and careful ecosystem restoration along the MRGO. These comments poured in from across the nation, and we now have a $2.9 billion recommended plan for restoration by the Army Corps’ Chief of Engineers.

BP oil disaster

We harnessed the Power of We to pass landmark legislation after the BP oil disaster. The Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign has been working since the spill to ensure that the Clean Water Act fines BP and other responsible parties will pay as a result of the spill are returned to the Gulf Coast to be used for restoration. For this to happen, Congress needed to pass legislation ensuring the money was sent to the gulf states — that bill was the RESTORE Act. A little over two years after the spill had started, Congress passed the RESTORE Act and the President signed it into law. This historic bipartisan legislation came to be in part because of the many letters sent to Congress by people all across the country. Our campaign helped generate over 160,000 letters to Congress asking them to make the RESTORE Act a priority.

Holding BP accountable

But even though the RESTORE Act is now law, our work is not done. It’s been over two years since the gulf oil disaster started, and BP has still not paid a penny in Clean Water Act fines. BP has been stalling the process and is actively trying to walk away from its obligations to clean up the gulf. We can't let that happen. The Power of We can help make things right for the environment and communities of the gulf. Please sign our petition to BP and tell them to stop stalling, stop litigating and make the gulf whole. It’s the right thing to do.

What else can you do?

Like the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign on Facebook! By liking our page, you can be the first to receive updates and action opportunities for the delta.

Follow us on Twitter! @RestoreDelta is Twitter's best resource for Mississippi River Delta news, action items and project updates.

Subscribe to Delta Dispatches! Delta Dispatches is the Web's foremost blog on the policies and science behind Mississippi River Delta restoration.

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The People Have Spoken

October 1, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Congress, Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation

On September 6, restoration along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) passed another important milestone with completion of the final public comment period for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ planning process. It’s a milestone worth honoring, because almost 49,000 people commented on the plan and the need to prioritize restoration of the area. These comments were collected through nonprofit organizations affiliated with the MRGO Must Go Coalition, and since last year, over 75,000 people have shared their voice of support for the Coalition’s recommendations for MRGO ecosystem restoration during the public comment process. That is, by far, a record for the Corps of Engineers New Orleans District and goes to show how important this restoration effort is for the Greater New Orleans area.

“The corps needs to listen to the will of the people and address the ecosystem damaged by the MRGO. It’s time for the corps to step up to their responsibility and move on this work,” said John Koeferl, member of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Despite this loud demand for urgent and comprehensive restoration, the Corps of Engineers is considering a recommendation of no further action on the MRGO ecosystem restoration report, due to a dispute over who will pay for the projects. A formal decision is still being made on the recommendation by the Chief of Engineers and is expected this week.

Aerial graphic of MRGO ecosystem restoration plan components. Source: U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

Of course, the need for restoration transcends a policy dispute. The MRGO report, which is more than four years beyond its congressional deadline, contains the corps’ plan to restore a portion of more than 600,000 acres of coastal wetlands and waterways impacted by the MRGO shipping channel. The MRGO has been directly linked to intensifying the destruction of Hurricane Katrina by destroying the wetlands that once buffered the Greater New Orleans area from storm surge.

In addition to the Coalition’s recommendation that the Corps of Engineers move forward on plan implementation, other major recommendations were offered to the corps, including prioritizing the 19 projects listed in the corps’ report that are also addressed in Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan, as well as expeditiously moving forward the Violet Freshwater Diversion. The majority of marsh creation, marsh nourishment and swamp creation features depend on river reintroduction, and the Violet Diversion project will allow for salinity control, sediment delivery to the Central Wetlands area, and better adaptation to sea level rise.

To learn more about the MRGO Must Go Coalition and our recommendations, please visit www.MRGOmustGO.org.

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Statement: Army Corps Should Act Quickly to Restore MRGO Damage

September 27, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Media Resources, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

Contacts:
Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation, 504-442-2702
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504-421-7348

For Immediate Release:

(September 26, 2012—New Orleans) The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its March decision on Army Corps liability for catastrophic flood damage related to the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) during Hurricane Katrina, giving the Army Corps immunity under the discretionary-function exception of the Federal Tort Claims Act. Still, the Court acknowledged the MRGO “greatly aggravated the storm’s effects on the city” and the Corps “abused its discretion.”

“MRGO operation followed a multi-decadal pattern of failed policy and inadequate execution, which blithely ignored the egregious wetland loss and ominous threat the MRGO posed to St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans,” said Dr. John Lopez, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. “Due to the Corps’ failure to correct the issue, the MRGO destroyed communities and cost lives.”

Today, the MRGO damage remains unmitigated. Over 600,000 acres of coastal habitat were impacted by the MRGO, including tens of thousands of acres of protective wetlands that surround the Greater New Orleans area. Despite a call to action by Congress in 2006, an Army Corps plan for environmental restoration along the MRGO is still incomplete and facing a recommendation of “no further action” by the Corps due to a policy dispute over who will pay for the restoration projects.

“The stakes are too high for this to end here. The government must do what is right and fix the damage caused by the MRGO before the next catastrophe,” said Amanda Moore, greater New Orleans program manager for National Wildlife Federation.

This statement is supported by National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club, Levees.org, American Rivers and Global Green.

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Seven Years Later: Hurricane Katrina and MRGO

August 28, 2012 | Posted by Kevin Chandler in Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

Seven years ago today, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coastlines of Louisiana and Mississippi, ripping a path of destruction and shattering the lives of countless coastal residents. Around the world, images of flooding and destruction were burned into the eyes of billions of people as they watched one the costliest, deadliest disasters in American history unfold before them.

Today, seven years have passed, and as we speak, Hurricane Isaac is hovering over the coast. As Katrina continues to affect Louisiana residents in very real ways, countless others continue their work helping those who have suffered.

Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: GOES 12 Satellite, NASA, NOAA.

Where does the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign fit into the equation? Consider our campaign's tagline: "reconnecting the river to its delta to protect people, wildlife and jobs."

The key word here is "protect."

There are thousands of reasons why we should restore Louisiana's coastal wetlands. They provide the natural resources on which the state's economy thrives. They hold some of the world's most popular game fish and waterfowl. They offer stopover and nesting sites for hundreds of millions of birds.

But they also offer protection.

By absorbing storm surge and acting as horizontal levees, wetlands are a key line of defense against hurricanes. As wetlands disappear, so do the natural defenses for millions of coastal residents, hundreds of billions of dollars in oil and gas infrastructure, and our nation's most important navigation system.

Louisiana's communities are the most vital part of this equation — they are the backbone of the region's culture and economy. With every acre of wetlands that disappears, coastal residents are an acre closer to disaster. For evidence, we look back at Hurricane Katrina and the disaster that unfolded in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO).

MRGO is a channel dug by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s and 1960s as a shorter shipping route from the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans. It was supposed to save time and money in shipping and navigation, but it turned out to be expensive and underused. In 2006, every ship passing through the channel cost state taxpayers $20,000. What's more, it destroyed 27,000 acres of vital wetlands and impacted over 600,000 acres of coastal habitat that protects the Greater New Orleans area.

When Hurricane Katrina struck, storm surge from the MRGO breached levees and floodwalls in St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans, flooding homes throughout the areas. The MRGO channel actually acted as a funnel, amplifying storm surge by 20 to 40 percent, resulting in catastrophic flooding in the historic Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans.

Because of the destructive role MRGO played in the Katrina disaster, the U.S. Congress ordered the corps to close the channel in 2006. Earlier this year, a federal court upheld a previous ruling that names the Army Corps of Engineers responsible for negligence in its mismanagement of the MRGO.

Yet despite its closure, MRGO isn't gone yet. Though the channel is closed to navigation, the ecosystem continues to deteriorate and still needs restoration of critical landscape features that help buffer storm surge and waves.

In 2008, Congress gave the corps a six month deadline to develop a comprehensive closure plan that includes wetlands restoration. Four years later, no plan is complete, and restoration has yet to begin.

The Corps of Engineers is now considering further delaying restoration because of a cost-share dispute with the state of Louisiana. Their current restoration plan also does not include plans for the Violet diversion, which would deliver sustaining fresh water and a small amount of sediment to the Central Wetlands and Biloxi Marshes east of New Orleans. The Violet diversion is critical for the long-term viability of any wetland restoration in the area.

Louisiana needs a plan that mirrors the unprecedented scale of damage done to these coastal habitats and storm buffers. This plan should have been put in place years ago. Further delay on implementation is unacceptable.

The Corps of Engineers is currently accepting comments on its MRGO restoration plan, and Louisiana needs your help. By submitting your own comments to the corps, you can be an additional voice for the communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina and MRGO.

Nothing can undo the damage that was done, but by restoring the area around the MRGO, we can restore wildlife and add one more line of defense for the people of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish. With another hurricane striking on this 7th anniversary of Katrina, it's the right thing to do.

Submit comments to the Army Corps of Engineers on MRGO via NWF

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The Next 50 Years: Louisiana Coastal Area projects in the master plan

July 12, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Coastal Master Plan series, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, Restoration Projects, Whites Ditch

This is the fourth post in our "The Next 50 Years" Coastal Master Plan series. Check back as we continue diving into the master plan and what it means for the people and environment of the Mississippi River Delta.

By Alisha A. Renfro, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, National Wildlife Federation

To formulate Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan, coastal authorities evaluated nearly 250 restoration projects that had been proposed in previous parish- and state-level restoration plans. This number was then narrowed down by setting a realistically achievable budget, modeling for future environmental conditions and understanding how the implementation of individual projects could help sustain or build land over the next 50 years. Projects included in the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Comprehensive Study were among those considered for inclusion in the master plan, and many of these projects – or similar versions of them – were included in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. By incorporating these projects in the long-term vision of restoration for coastal Louisiana, these projects will be better integrated with others in the master plan. Additionally, inclusion of these LCA projects shows the state’s commitment to their construction and implementation.

The LCA Program was authorized through the 2007 Water Resources Development Act and includes 15 near-term critical restoration projects. As part of the LCA Program, the state of Louisiana and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work together to plan and implement these 15 projects. To date, construction has not begun on any of these projects, and as they near the construction phase, the lack of federal funding in the immediate future threatens to delays them indefinitely. That is, until Congress passed the RESTORE Act in June. Signed into law just last week, the RESTORE Act will ensure that 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines BP and other responsible parties will pay as a result of the 2010 gulf oil spill are dedicated to environmental restoration in the gulf states. In Louisiana, this money will be used to help fund the restoration projects outlined in the master plan.

Of the 15 LCA projects, nine were included in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. But in many cases, the project selected and described in the master plan is a modified version of the original LCA project. This is a result of the analysis conducted in the planning process that indicated that modifications to the project would increase the land it built or maintained. However, it should be noted that the projects described in the master plan are still conceptual, as their exact size and location will be determined through further planning and design. Below is a list of the LCA projects and a brief description of the corresponding project included in the master plan.

The extensive analysis that went into formulating the master plan indicates that the capacity of several of the LCA sediment diversions may need to be scaled up in order to maximize the amount of land they can build and sustain. By including so many LCA projects in the plan, coastal authorities reaffirmed the importance of these critical projects to restoring the coastal Louisiana landscape. Moving away from smaller restoration projects toward larger ecosystem-scale projects will help restore the natural hydrology and mimic the processes that built the Mississippi River Delta, thus creating a more sustainable coastline for the people who call the region home.

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NGOs urge federal government to restore coast damaged by Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

March 15, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

(March 7, 2012 — New Orleans) On March 2, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the November 2009 landmark decision that found the Army Corps liable for catastrophic flooding in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish during Hurricane Katrina due to the grossly negligent management of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). In 2009, Judge Stanwood Duval ruled that the dangerous condition of the shipping channel was clearly acknowledged by the Corps for decades, but the Corps chose not to take a course of action to remedy the ongoing destruction and degradation of the protective wetlands. The MRGO impacted over 700,000 acres of coastal wetlands and waterways. These wetlands once buffered the Greater New Orleans area from storm surge.

Views of inundated areas in New Orleans following breaking of the levees surrounding the city as the result of Hurricane Katrina. 11 September 2005. View is of a section of Eastern New Orleans, to the west of Lake Forest Boulevard. I-10 runs horizontally through center of image. MRGO canal is seen to south in distance. Credit: NOAA

This second ruling reaffirms the direct linkage of the MRGO to the deadly destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Urgent restitution for all impacted by Corps negligence and restoration of the MRGO ecosystem is imperative. Still, the federal government is expected to continue to appeal, further delaying resolution.

“Nearly seven years have passed since Hurricane Katrina. It’s high time for the federal government to step-up to the plate by compensating those affected and by funding MRGO restoration,” said Dr. John Lopez of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

Although the closure of the shipping channel was long-advocated by environmental and community groups, and even though the funneling effect of the MRGO was predicted by storm surge researchers, it took the drowning of entire communities to achieve congressional action for MRGO closure and restoration planning.

Restoration planning is ongoing. Both the Corps’ draft MRGO ecosystem restoration plan and the State of Louisiana’s draft 2012 Coastal Master Plan call for upwards of $5 billion in restoration projects in the area impacted by the channel. The need for funding prevents implementation of this immensely important restoration effort. Settling this case could provide a major source of those funds.

“As an advocate for both the environment and reduction of flood risk, I believe the Court of Appeals decision will push government engineers to look long and hard at how other channels similar to the MRGO along the Gulf Coast increase risk and damage the environment. More importantly, we need to fix them before the next catastrophe,” said Dr.Paul Kemp, Vice President at National Audubon Society and a member of Team Louisiana.

Statement supported by: American Rivers, CAWIC, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Global Green-USA, Gulf Restoration Network, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Levees.org, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Lower Ninth Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, MQVN Community Development Corporation, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club – Delta Chapter, Tierra Resources, LLC, and St. Bernard Parish Government.

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