Archive for People
On Saturday October 25th, the Restore the Mississippi River Delta field team came together to recruit supporters for coastal restoration at Rougarou Fest in Houma, Louisiana. Rougarou Fest is a family-friendly festival with a spooky flair that celebrates the rich folklore that exists along the bayous of Southeast Louisiana. It is also the primary fundraiser supporting the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that is working to educate individuals about Louisiana’s disappearing coast.
If you are not a native to southern Louisiana, you may be wondering, “What is a rougarou?” The rougarou legend has been spread for many generations directly from French settlers. In the Cajun legends, the rougarou is said to prowl the swamps around Acadiana and Greater New Orleans as well as the fields and forests of the regions. The rougarou is a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog, similar to a werewolf!
Rougarou Fest was full of fun, along with a few spooky scares. Throughout the day, the field team passed out educational materials and talked to festival goers about the importance of restoring Louisiana wetlands. At the Restore the Mississippi River Delta table, children got temporary tattoos of ghosts and monsters while they colored lively graphics of rougarous, spiders and vampire bats that begged for their ecosystems to be protected. The occasional zombie approached the table with a blank stare and slight growl. The zombies seemed confused and angry that their Louisiana was underwater. Their homes gone. They could not believe that Louisiana is now losing a football field of land every hour!
At 6 p.m., four brave wetland warriors ran in the Rougarou Zombie Run. They had to dodge dozens of zombies in order to survive the race. Each warrior was given a belt with three flags. Our team of wetland warriors made it out alive but was exhausted from sprinting from the enraged zombies.
At 7 p.m., the Krewe Ga Rou parade rolled with over thirty floats rolling through downtown Houma. Children and adults alike lined the streets with jack-o-lanterns waiting for candy and the occasional spook. The Restore the Mississippi River Delta campaign marched in the parade handing out nearly twenty pounds of candy and over 300 pledge cards, which asked individuals to pledge to vote and to urge candidates to support coastal restoration. Costumes were essential! The Restore the Mississippi River Delta campaign marched as zombie football fans with signs reading “Where’s the Game?” “Every Hour Louisiana Loses a Football Field of Land” and “Restore the Coast, Protect Tradition.” These zombie football fans couldn’t believe that one of Louisiana’s greatest traditions, football, was being threatened. The zombies seemed unable to find the Saints game, as the football field had succumbed to the Gulf of Mexico!
Rougarou Fest was certainly a fun-filled fall day in Houma! I hope you all have a terrific Halloween, and please, be careful. Avoid essential Rougarou habitat: fields, forests and swamps. Happy Halloween!No Comments
By Eden Davis, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Campaign
On September 12, I had the opportunity to travel to Raccoon Island, one of the remaining barrier islands outside of Terrebonne Bay. Raccoon Island was once part of the 25-mile-long barrier island chain called Isles Dernieres or Last Islands. Prior to the Last Island Hurricane of August 10, 1856, Isles Dernieres was a famous resort destination. When the Last Island Hurricane hit, more than 200 people perished in the storm, and the island was left void of vegetation. The hurricane split the island into five smaller islands called East, Trinity, Whiskey, Raccoon and Wine Islands.
On this beautiful summer day, I traveled by boat with 18 other volunteers and employees from the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries 13 miles off the coast of Cocodrie to Raccoon Island. As we left Terrebonne Bay, we passed several shrimping boats and a distinctly large jack-up rig that was heading offshore. These were distinct reminders that Louisiana’s coast is a working coast that provides our nation with oil and gas and some of the best seafood one can sink its teeth into.
Upon reaching the island, we saw hundreds of pelicans. Many were in the air, some were in the water and others were on the island with their young whom were not yet able to fly. As we trekked to the beach side of the island, there were beautiful moon shells scattering the sand. Our task was to install a one-mile-long sand fence. This involved rolling out sections of the fence, standing it up and nailing it to the already placed fence posts.
The sand fence will help to restore and protect 20 acres of the rapidly eroding shoreline of Raccoon Island. The island chain used to be one large barrier island, but years of erosion from hurricanes compounded with a loss of sediment from the Mississippi River have broken the island into the four that exist today. The remaining islands continue to erode and, without intervention like the sand fence project, may wash away completely over the next several years. The sand fence will directly protect critical nesting habitat for the pelicans and other seabirds that call these islands home. The sand fence will also help to mitigate erosion.
Barrier islands are our communities’ first line of defense. Storm surge during a hurricane will hit these islands before it hits our marshes and communities. Barrier islands are beautiful, but they are on the front lines of sea level rise and subsidence. If we fail to restore them, our grandchildren may never see their splendor. Moreover, the birds that call these islands home will be forced out of their habitat.
Brown pelicans, the island’s primary residents and our state bird, are at great risk if these islands succumb to the Gulf’s waters. Brown pelicans do not migrate. They stay in the mangroves, the beaches and the shores. As the Louisiana coast sinks into the Gulf, the critical habitat for these beautiful birds is threatened.
If you have a Friday or Saturday free, consider volunteering with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. They have regular marsh grass plantings, dune restoration projects and other ecosystem protection and restoration projects available for volunteers. Not only will you enjoy a beautiful day outdoors, but you will also be directly restoring and protecting our coast. Check out the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana’s event calendar here: https://www.thedatabank.com/dpg/316/mtglist.asp?formid=event&caldate=9-1-2014#mtgsrchfrm.1 Comment
Guest post by Lynda Woolard (New Orleans)
This post is the first in a two-part guest series.
"The simple truth is, if we fail to restore our coast, we fail to protect our city from future storms."
I was recently blessed with an opportunity to go along for a boat trip to see the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) and the Central Wetlands of southeast Louisiana with a delegation from the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign. I was initially a little anxious, because despite having lived in New Orleans for 20 years, this was new territory for me. Although these wetlands are less than a 30-minute drive from my home, I had never been out to see them.
I felt some relief upon reaching the marina, as others on the boat were residents of St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes and had made this trip many times for fishing, work and recreation. My fears were replaced by awe as we traveled into the wetlands. The waterways and surrounding marshes were stunning and peaceful and seemed a world away from the city. Yet amazingly, we could still see the New Orleans skyline throughout much of our trip. While New Orleanians identify ourselves as living in a port city, we don’t often think of ourselves as living in a coastal city. But we do!
Interspersed with the beautiful natural scenery of southeast Louisiana were stark reminders of how precarious our proximity to the coast is. We saw an entire fishing village that had been wiped away by storm and remains a ghost town. We saw the memorial and sculpture at Shell Beach, placed in honor of the 163 St. Bernard residents who lost their lives during Hurricane Katrina. We saw the further peril we have put ourselves in by decades of carving up these coastal marshes and failing to protect them adequately.
The creation of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet navigation channel, which is a straight shot from the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of New Orleans, has put our entire region at greater risk from hurricanes. It’s been called the “Hurricane Highway” because it led a surge of seawater in a direct path to cause catastrophic flooding of St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina. However, its damage is more far reaching than that. The construction of the MRGO has made our levees and surge barriers, which were not engineered to withstand open water, more vulnerable. Our hurricane protection systems, both manmade and natural, require protection by freshwater wetlands and marsh.
Because of the MRGO, our wetlands are disappearing at a more rapid pace. The channel itself has eroded as well, from a 650-foot wide waterway to 2,000 feet wide. While traveling down the MRGO, we could see cypress tree “tombstones” marking the spots where vibrant wetlands once flourished. Our charter boat captain told stories about how more islands vanish with each passing year. The introduction of salt water into the marshes has been disastrous.
The good news is that steps are being taken to restore the Mississippi River Delta. There is a Coastal Master Plan in place to rebuild the wetlands, barrier islands and marshes that serve as our city’s first lines of defense against hurricanes and to preserve the ecosystems that support our state’s way of life. Massive and impressive projects, like a surge barrier and a rock dam, have already been started that will lessen further damage from the MRGO.
But this good news comes with some alarm bells. Progress needs to come at a much faster rate, because our wetlands are disappearing too quickly. While traveling to the Golden Triangle Marsh, it was made very clear that St. Tammany Parish citizens need to be made aware that if we allow wetland deterioration to continue to the point of losing the New Orleans East Land Bridge, the waters of the Gulf will be on their doorstep. The environmental scientists and engineers working on restoration have done the research – they know the solutions and it is imperative, regardless of what we have allowed to happen in the past, that we listen to them now… and act.
The residents of Orleans Parish need to see this as an incredibly urgent issue, because this is as big of a safety issue as having secure, functioning levees. There is a direct correlation between protecting our city – as well as our culture – and restoring our wetlands. The simple truth is, if we fail to restore our coast, we fail to protect our city from future storms. I believe the Gulf Coast, Louisiana’s wetlands and the city of New Orleans are treasures worth saving. If we have the will, we have the power to make it happen.
New Orleans, LA
July 26, 2014
Business Community, Civic Associations and Coastal Parishes call for Louisiana Legislature to Protect Coastal Fund and Pass HB 490May 15, 2014 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in People, Restoration Projects, State Legislature
By Derek Brockbank, Campaign Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign
More than 150 businesses, business associations, economic development groups, civic associations, tourism and outdoor recreation groups recently signed on to a letter calling for the Louisiana Legislature to pass HB 490, to protect the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund from misuse.
At the same time, the 20 parish presidents that represent Louisiana’s coastal parishes sent their own letter to the leaders of the Louisiana House of Representatives and State Senate calling on them to support HB 490.
Led by Coast Builders Coalition, Dredging Contractors of America, Greater New Orleans, Inc. and dozens of local chambers of commerce and convention and visitors bureaus, the letter from businesses and civic associations stated that:
“Monies dedicated to the Coastal Fund should only be used for coastal protection and restoration, but for the past few years, a loophole in the law has been used by the state as a way to attempt to balance the state’s ailing budget. While the Louisiana constitution prohibits using one-time money for recurring costs, such as health care and higher education, some lawmakers believe they can get around that rule by transferring money through the Coastal Fund.
“As civic and business leaders who value restoration as one of our top policy priorities, we urge you to pass HB 490 and protect the integrity of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund, by ensuring it will be used only as intended.”
The letter from Louisiana Parishes Against Coastal Erosion (PACE), representing Louisiana’s 20 coastal parishes, said:
“La. PACE has reviewed and discussed the provisions set forth in this proposed piece of legislation, and has determined that HB 490 is in the best interest of the citizens of Louisiana.”
After unanimously passing the Louisiana House of Representatives, HB 490 is clearly gaining momentum. The more people hear about the bill, the more popular it becomes. Not surprisingly, the business community, local civic associations and coastal parishes understand that transparent and proper use of Coastal Fund dollars is essential to ensure the continued flow of BP oil spill fines and other federal funds to the state. Mismanagement of the Coastal Fund now will create doubts that could jeopardize millions of future dollars. HB 490 would protect the integrity of Louisiana’s Coastal Fund by using the Fund as the law intended – for coastal restoration and protection only. Now it’s up to the Louisiana State Senate to pass this important legislation.No Comments
Profiles in Resilience: ORA Estuaries wins 2014 Water Challenge business pitch at New Orleans Entrepreneur WeekApril 14, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in Economics, People, Profiles in Resilience, Restoration Projects
By Keenan Orfalea, Communications Intern, Environmental Defense Fund
Last month, ORA Estuaries took first place in the 2014 Water Challenge business pitch competition at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. The Baton Rouge-based company beat out four other startups to claim the prize, which included $50,000 in seed money as well as free office space and legal counsel for a year. This support will help the company to expand the use of its innovative products and services in restoring Louisiana’s wetlands.
ORA Estuaries provides engineering, scientific and regulatory consulting services as well as project implementation for clients including local, state and federal governments. The company’s primary products are the patented OysterBreak™ and OysterKrete® technologies.
“The OysterBreak and OysterKrete technologies were originally developed in Louisiana to address Louisiana's coastal land loss,” said Tyler Ortego, president and founder of the company. “This prize package, combined with recent project successes, is critical to allowing ORA Estuaries to export that success to other areas of the country and world.”
ORA’s innovative technologies are specifically designed to facilitate the protection, restoration and healthy growth of coastal estuaries. OysterBreak™ is designed to use the gregarious, shell-building nature to form a living coastal protection structure. The system has proven more effective than alternative rock structures. By employing these tools, ORA Estuaries is able to accomplish its primary goals of stabilizing shoreline and enhancing marine ecosystems.
While ORA Estuaries may be a startup, Ortego has years of experience working in coastal engineering and natural resource management. He is a Graduate of Louisiana State University and holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biological Engineering, as well as being both a professional engineer and a certified oyster biologist with the state’s Oyster Lease Damage Evaluation Board. He started his career consulting on wetland restoration, flood protection and mitigation projects around Louisiana and the Gulf Coast before founding ORA Estuaries. Since then, the company has participated in a number of large-scale plans involving the study and design of oyster reefs and various other aquatic environments. Through the success of these projects, Mr. Ortego hopes they will become “the new definition of a living shoreline.”
Thanks to winning the Water Challenge business pitch, ORA Estuaries plans to use its innovator prize monies to help market their OysterBreak™ technology as a solution to coastal restoration experts internationally.No Comments
By Philip Russo, Plaquemines Parish Outreach Coordinator, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign
During the first weekend in December, local residents and tourists alike celebrated the bounty of Plaquemines Parish’s cultural and economic successes at the 67th annual Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival in Buras. Huddled between the protective Mississippi River levee and the elegantly decayed Fort Jackson, the festival was not entirely spared the blustery and frosty weather that is typical of early December. Yet despite the weather, fairgoers celebrated “the best Citrus in the Country” and reveled in the Mississippi River Delta’s natural beauty.
The fusion of Creole and Croatian cuisine served throughout the festival grounds presented a tasty backdrop for the series of navel-themed contests, such as orange peeling and orange eating, that festival queens from all over Louisiana came to compete in. The festival was successful and well-attended, but local residents still lament that the fair has not returned to being held within the confines of Fort Jackson itself – a tradition interrupted by extensive flood damage resulting from Hurricane Katrina. However, if coastal erosion and sea level rise are not countered with aggressive coastal restoration efforts, Millennials may be the last generation to enjoy the festival on this site.
Storied harvest festivals are a common but precious feature of the fragile human landscape of coastal Louisiana. As we design and implement coastal restoration projects, we are protecting and preserving not only the delta and its vital wetlands, but also the area’s occupants, their way of life and the cultural legacies of the region which depend on the health of the Mississippi River Delta. So whether you’re a fan of hearing the Crawfish Race Commissioner yell “ils sont partis” at the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge or festival queens competing to see who can fit the most kumquats in their mouths at the Orange Festival in Buras, seeing Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan thoroughly implemented should be a top priority.No Comments
By Will Lindsey, Environmental Defense Fund
Allied Concrete Company, a 68-year-old firm based in Charlottesville, Va., is creating new business opportunities by partnering with conservation groups to deploy miles of new oyster reefs along the Gulf Coast. These reefs are composed of an innovative concrete product and create both a restored ecosystem habitat as well as a new business opportunity for Allied Concrete.
In 2011, the 100-1000 Coalition began implementing a project to build 100 miles of oyster reefs in Alabama, which would then support more than 1,000 acres of marshland. Coalition member organizations include Mobile Baykeeper, The Nature Conservancy, The Alabama Coastal Foundation, Weeks Bay Foundation, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, The Ocean Foundation, Alabama Wildlife Foundation and Coastal Conservation Association.
A displaced Louisianan, Allied Concrete company president Gus Lorber has a passion for saving the Gulf. “I grew up in Louisiana and worked, played and fished in the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast area my entire life,” said Lorber. “I have seen firsthand the degradation of the coastal wetlands in that area my entire life.”
Founded in 1945, Allied traditionally made concrete blocks, but the company has since diversified its product range in response to ever-changing markets and customer needs. Notably, in 2007, Allied joined forces with The Nature Conservancy and others to develop a solution to the declining oyster populations in coastal regions. The result of this partnership was the Oyster Castle, which is a concrete unit by Allied specially designed to build oyster reefs. The unit is made of a “certified blend of proprietary material conducive to attracting and fostering oyster settlement, attachment, and growth.”
Significantly, the Oyster Castle has received a gold Cradle to Cradle certification for its environmentally-friendly design. With Gulf Coast restoration projects likely to ramp up in response to potential monies flowing as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, Allied’s business is expected to increase. “I firmly believe that, as the RESTORE Act monies become available, the monies should be spent on creating economies in the ‘home’ states, and we are prepared to license local manufacturers to make our units to accomplish this goal,” says Lorber.
Allied is proud to be making a product that has a positive impact in the Gulf Coast. “Besides being my passion, all of my employees love what we are doing with Oyster Castles,” said Lorber. “They feel good about this company for helping the environment, they feel good about their part in making a product that plays a part in this, and they always volunteer for whatever hair-brained scheme I come up with to make products that do good things.”
In addition to providing habitat, oyster reef restoration projects provide numerous environmental benefits including water filtration, habitat for other marine life, storm surge attenuation and erosion control.No Comments
By Will Lindsey, Environmental Defense Fund
Louisiana-based company HESCO Bastion Environmental, Inc. is at the forefront of business innovations in response to the growing market for coastal restoration projects. Finding new uses for established products, the company is now involved in creating artificial oyster reefs and protective structures for wetlands. This arena of work is expected to expand and create more jobs in coastal communities as the RESTORE Act funds and other monies from the BP oil spill begin to flow.
HESCO’s original product, the Concertainer, is a barrier system that consists of galvanized welded mesh framed baskets complete with a non-woven geotextile liner. The product is offered in different dimensions and when properly assembled and filled with substrate, such as sand, creates a system of “walls of exceptional strength and integrity.” In the past, the Concertainer has been used primarily for flood protection and by the U.S. armed forces as a barrier against force.
Now, in the face of coastal erosion in the Gulf Coast, the Concertainer has been adapted to take on the challenge of coastal restoration. The aptly named “Concertainer Delta Unit” maintains the original shape and design of the Concertainer, but adds front, unlined compartments. These front compartments, which alternate between rectangular and triangular shapes, can be filled with materials, such as oyster shells, that provide habitat for aquatic organisms. The lined section can be filled with other substrates that encourage coastal plant life to be established. This allows for the restoration of coastal environments by creating a “living shoreline.”
Working with the University of New Orleans, HESCO demonstrated that the Concertainer could be used as an effective coastal restoration tool, by helping to rebuild degraded shoreline near New Orleans. Currently, with the potential for millions of dollars in funding to be directed to coastal restoration through the RESTORE Act and other payments from the BP oil spill, coastal restoration companies like HESCO could see a significant growth in business.
“Our products provide a low-cost solution to a wide range of coastal restoration and protection challenges, from oyster reef construction to flood protection,” said Stephanie Victory, president of HESCO Bastion Environmental, Inc. “We have completed projects all over the world…from emergency flood responses in Thailand to building HESCO Delta Unit oyster reefs just north of Gulf Shores, Ala. We are thrilled that the RESTORE Act passage will create more opportunities for jobs and coastal restoration efforts back home in Louisiana and across the Gulf region.”1 Comment
By Kaitlin Brown, Environmental Defense Fund
"We look at coastal restoration as the future of our company." — Dwayne Bernal, CEO, Royal Engineering
Royal Engineering & Consultants, LLC (Royal), a New Orleans-based engineering and consulting firm, is one of the many innovative businesses committed to rebuilding the Gulf Coast after the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. Led by CEO Dwayne Bernal, Royal is dedicated to serving the public in a way that focuses not only on individual projects, but also on rebuilding strong local communities. The company’s 75 employees work in a variety of areas, including civil engineering, construction management, program/project management, environmental services, energy services and coastal engineering. Passage of last year’s RESTORE Act is expected to provide significant new funding for coastal restoration. This infusion will in turn benefit local companies like Royal and provide opportunities for them to grow.
"The RESTORE Act provides a catalytic opportunity for our nation to create and protect jobs, not only along the Gulf Coast, but in communities across the country that will provide materials, technologies and services for ecosystem restoration," says Dwayne. "We look at coastal restoration as the future of our company."
Royal’s coastal engineering services include but are not limited to: planning and design of ecosystem restoration projects, hydraulic and hydrodynamic modeling, shoreline protection, beneficial use of dredged material, marsh creation design and barrier island restoration. As coastal restoration funding is allocated to the Gulf Coast states as directed through the RESTORE Act, more projects like these will be approved, creating job and business growth opportunities for companies like Royal Engineering.
Bernal, who was born and raised in New Orleans, formed Royal in 2005, after witnessing the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on his hometown. "I worked in the engineering field for several local companies and then Hurricane Katrina hit, and I saw that basically as an opportunity to take that entrepreneurial spirit that I had within me and start my own organization," said Dwayne. One week after Hurricane Katrina, with 15 employees, Dwayne created Royal Engineering. Initially, the company assisted with hurricane cleanup, working on debris removal and quality assurance. But as time went by, Dwayne diversified Royal and added additional services and areas of expertise.
Following the devastation of Katrina, Dwayne realized that restoration of the Gulf was going to take more time and effort than anyone had predicted, and that everyone would need to play a role in order to restore the region and create a more sustainable environment for the future. Like so many other people throughout the Gulf Coast, Dwayne recognizes that the future of his beloved city and the Mississippi River Delta depends on the restoration efforts of companies like Royal Engineering. And Royal isn't planning on leaving New Orleans or the business of coastal restoration any time soon.No Comments
From the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana:
Restoring and protecting the natural treasure of Louisiana’s coast is a duty embraced by many people with diverse backgrounds. Some may be volunteers, students, researchers, sportsmen, governmental or business leaders, or simply coastal citizens who care enough about the future of our state to take action.
Every year the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is proud to honor and individuals and organizations who demonstrate extraordinary commitment to the coast with a CRCL Coastal Stewardship Award. These awards are CRCL’s highest form of recognition for those who go above and beyond for our coast, and we need your help to discover worthy candidates for the honors.
This year’s 18th annual Coastal Stewardship Awards Program will be held on Friday, May 10, 2013 at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center.
Nominations are being accepted for the following categories:
Lifetime Achievement Award: awarded in recognition of an individual who has demonstrated many years of service to the Louisiana coast over a career or lifetime.
Distinguished Achievement Award: awarded to those who have shown extraordinary commitment to the coast, usually over a consistent period of several years.
Coastal Stewardship Award: awarded in recognition of service and outstanding effort in coastal restoration either in the past year or several years.
For a list of previous winners of Coastal Stewardship Awards, click here.
To nominate a person or organization for a Coastal Stewardship Award, download our nomination form here. For more information, contact CRCL at 1-888-LACOAST (1-888-522-6278) or e-mail our communications director, Scott Madere at email@example.com.
All nominations must be received by March 4, 2012.No Comments