Archive for Restoration Projects


Restoration Solutions: Sediment Diversions

July 26, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in 19 Priority Projects, coastal restoration, Diversions, Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Restoration Projects

The State of Louisiana is advancing two sediment diversions south of New Orleans. These projects are on track to begin construction by 2020 using funding from the BP oil spill. Multiple projects working together are needed to build and sustain land, but sediment diversions are a crucial foundation needed to confront Louisiana's ongoing land loss crisis.

Learn more about sediment diversions in the fact sheet below.

Sediment-Diversion_Page_1 Sediment-Diversion_Page_2

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The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana plants their 10,000th tree in Braithwaite, LA

April 26, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in coastal restoration, Restoration Projects

By Brittany Boyke, Habitat Restoration Program Coordinator, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana

Saturday, April 2nd was the culmination of a two-year effort to rebuild one of Louisiana’s once mighty coastal forests.

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana’s Habitat Restoration Program in partnership with the Restore the Earth Foundation (REF), Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF), the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and 46 volunteers planted the final 1,165 trees in the Caernarvon Diversion Outfall in St. Bernard Parish, reaching the goal of planting 10,000 trees in the area.

St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis commending the success of the 10,000 trees initiative.

St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis commending the success of the 10,000 trees initiative.

The 10,000 trees initiative began in the fall of 2014 and set out to restore 80 acres of coastal forest that were devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac. In all, 800 volunteers donated 6,400 hours of their time to help restore this vital natural buffer by planting tree species which included red swamp maple, bald cypress, blackgum and water tupelo.

CRCL Habitat Restoration Project Coordinator Brittany Boyke training volunteers to plant saplings.

CRCL Habitat Restoration Project Coordinator Brittany Boyke training volunteers to plant saplings.

The Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion Project Outfall Area is on the border of St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes, just south of New Orleans. This once beautiful coastal forest was deforested at the turn of the 20th century and due to more recent hurricanes and storms, major erosion has taken place. By planting these saplings with a protective, nutria shield we have seen a 77% survival rate, which means this coastal forest will once again help protect the area from future storm surge. It has the added benefit of restoring the area’s natural fish and wildlife habitat and creating new land in the process. This newly planted forest also benefits from the fresh water and sediment that is diverted from the Mississippi River through the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion.

A portion of the final 1,165 planted trees, completing the 10,000 trees initiative.

A portion of the final 1,165 planted trees, completing the 10,000 trees initiative.

This is just the first step in restoring our coastal forests. CRCL, REF, LPBF and CPRA are committed to planting another 10,000 trees beginning in the fall of 2016.

Be on the lookout for great volunteer opportunities surrounding this and other important restoration projects.

You can get a full calendar of CRCL’s Habitat Restoration projects by visiting crcl.org.

Brittany Boyke coordinates the CRCL Habitat Restoration Program, including site selection, plant selection and volunteers. She has a BS in Natural Resource Ecology and Management with a Concentration in Wetland Ecology from LSU. She was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, but graduated from Pearland High School in Texas. She has lived primarily between the two states.

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Barrier Island Restoration: An Investment in Coastal LA’s Future and for Nesting Seabirds, Part 3

April 21, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in Birds, BP Oil Disaster, coastal restoration, Restoration Projects

Our partners at Audubon Louisiana published a series of blog posts that we are cross-posting here. View the original blog post here.

As we mark the sixth anniversary of the BP oil spill this week – an event that significantly and negatively impacted Louisiana’s already disappearing barrier islands and the species that depend on them – we will examine the status of barrier island restoration. Over the coming days, we’ll publish a series of blog posts that detail what work has been done to restore Louisiana’s barrier islands, the importance of these islands to birds and humans alike, as well as Audubon Louisiana’s role before, during and after the restoration process to monitor and improve bird health on these islands and elsewhere.

Part 3: "Audubon Louisiana: A Steward of Birds through Coastal Restoration"

By Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation, Audubon Louisiana, @AudubonErik

Audubon Louisiana is deeply involved in monitoring and improving the health of bird populations across the state. Nowhere is this more important than on barrier islands, which provide critical habitat for many bird species as we’ve detailed in previous blog posts.

The restoration of larger barrier islands closer to shore, like Whiskey Island, Scofield Island and many others, raises questions regarding the nesting success of seabirds, if one follows basic tenets of Island Biogeography Theory. An important question that Audubon Louisiana is seeking to understand is how many more fledglings are produced on a given island after restoration compared to before. It is possible that overall nesting success could decrease after restoration, because a larger (restored) island might support more predators, causing seabirds to be less successful. However, if there are more seabirds nesting on restored islands, might the total number of chicks fledged could still be a net increase? What do we do if not?

Audubon is monitoring beach-nesting birds on Grand Isle and the Caminada Headland to answer some of these questions for Least Terns and Wilson’s Plovers. After protecting certain nesting areas from human disturbance, in which volunteers play an important role in preventing, we track the nesting success of birds, and determine causes of failure, such as storm surge and various predators.

Piping Plovers, Elmers Island, Louisiana Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

Piping Plovers, Elmers Island, Louisiana Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

If restored barrier islands act as refuges and havens for predators, and not nesting seabirds, what can be done to enhance seabird nesting success? The removal of predators can be expensive, challenging and unsustainable. Electric and other kinds of exclosure fencing might be feasible in certain circumstances, but is also relatively expensive, and often requires regular maintenance. A more sustainable approach might instead be to place greater emphasis on the construction of smaller offshore islands, through dredge spoil or beneficial use, particularly where land-building processes exist (such as near diversions and naturally accreting deltas).

Caminada Headlands Barrier Island Creation - The continued deterioration of Caminada headland threatens thousands of acres of wetland habitat, as well as critical infrastructure. The project creates 300 acres of back barrier intertidal marsh and nourishes 130 acres of emergent marsh behind 3.5 miles of the Caminada beach using material dredged from the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Patrick M. Quigley, Gulf Coast Air Photo

Caminada Headlands Barrier Island Creation – The continued deterioration of Caminada headland threatens thousands of acres of wetland habitat, as well as critical infrastructure. The project creates 300 acres of back barrier intertidal marsh and nourishes 130 acres of emergent marsh behind 3.5 miles of the Caminada beach using material dredged from the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Patrick M. Quigley, Gulf Coast Air Photo

By no means, might I suggest to reduce the emphasis on larger barrier island restoration – this has an important role in the protection of other coastal habitats and coastal human communities. Surely, barrier islands with some predators are better than no barrier islands. Considering how to maximize the efficacy of barrier islands for nesting seabirds will require an island-by-island assessment, regular surveys, and adaptive management. Each of these islands are one hurricane away from losing their predators, so a well-constructed barrier island that withstands one or more storms, might suddenly produce more birds than were produced in many multiple years leading up to that. Most seabirds are long-lived, and their ability to live and nest on the edge of the Earth gives them a chance to wait for this once-in-a-lifetime event. They take the long-term view – not all that different than Louisiana’s 50-year, $50-billion coastal restoration plan.

Western Sandpiper, Grand Isle, Louisiana Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

Western Sandpiper, Grand Isle, Louisiana Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

 

If you would like more information on Audubon Louisiana's Coastal Stewardship Program or would like to volunteer with one of our programs, contact Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Louisiana, at ejohnson@audubon.org. You can also sign up here to receive the latest news, updates and volunteer information from Audubon Louisiana.

 

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6 years after the oil disaster: Coastal restoration in action

April 19, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in BP Oil Disaster, coastal restoration, Restoration Projects

By Estelle Robichaux, Restoration Project Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund

Today marks the 6th anniversary of the BP oil disaster, an event that changed not only the landscape and economies of the Gulf Coast but also the relationship that many residents have with their surrounding environment.

In Louisiana, of course, this devastating event only exacerbated our ongoing land loss crisis by killing wetland plants and speeding up erosion, as well as damaging communities that had only just begun recovering from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina five years earlier.

We can still plainly see some impacts from this disaster, such as the complete erosion of Cat Island in Barataria Bay, La., or the less obvious ongoing ecological effects, like a recent study linking increased juvenile dolphin mortalities to the spill.

But with the recently approved BP settlement and the finalized Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council Initial Funded Priorities List, there is more hope than ever before.

Barrier islands, Louisiana’s first line of defense

Here in coastal Louisiana, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) has been working since Day 1 to restore some of the areas hardest hit by the oil spill. The barrier islands and in the salt marshes of Barataria Bay experienced some of the highest concentrations of oiling during the spill, so this is where a lot of the early restoration funding has been focused.

Restoration Timeline

Restoration timeline of completed and future priority projects

Even before money from Transocean and BP was available, CPRA used other funding, like from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA), to complete different parts of the Barataria Pass to Sandy Point Barrier Island Restoration Project, one of our campaign’s priority projects. East Grand Terre, which we visited last year, was first of the four islands restored between late 2010 and early 2014 in this important barrier island chain. Two other projects, at Chaland Headland and Bay Joe Wise, had been completed before the oil spill.

Now that some of the funds from the oil spill settlements can be spent, active restoration of two more barrier islands has begun. Both Shell Island West and Chenier Ronquille, also part of the Barataria Pass to Sandy Point Barrier Island Restoration Project, are being restored with Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration funding. We expect both of these projects, being co-implemented by CPRA and NOAA’s Habitat Restoration Team, will be complete by early 2017!

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Completion of priority projects

Once CPRA receives funding from the RESTORE Council to implement projects on the Council’s Funded Priorities List, the state will finalize the design and begin construction of one more barrier island in the area: West Grand Terre. If all goes well, this island should be restored by the end of 2018. And with that, almost the entire barrier island chain between Barataria Pass and Sandy Point will have been restored!

We’re only getting started

The road to recovery for Louisiana communities and ecosystems will be long. But in many respects, we’re well on our way: Barrier islands are being restored, the $20.8 billion BP settlement has been approved and the RESTORE Council has finalized its first list of funded projects. Louisiana already has a plan to restore its coast via the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, and because of the BP and Transocean settlements, the state will have over $8 billion to spend on coastal restoration over the next 15 years. Six years after the spill, there is still work to do, but we are seeing real progress.

As Senior Restoration Project Analyst, Estelle Robichaux advocates for the implementation of science-based restoration projects and programs in coastal Louisiana. Estelle leads the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition’s project-related efforts, including science-based decision-making processes, project implementation, and related research. Estelle’s work also focuses on science communication and monitoring the development of scientific and research programs related to coastal Louisiana in the wake of the BP oil disaster.

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Barrier Island Restoration: An Investment in Coastal LA’s Future and for Nesting Seabirds, Part 2

| Posted by Emily McCalla in Birds, coastal restoration, Restoration Projects

Our partners at Audubon Louisiana published a series of blog posts that we are cross-posting here. View the original blog post here.

As we mark the sixth anniversary of the BP oil spill this week – an event that significantly and negatively impacted Louisiana’s already disappearing barrier islands and the species that depend on them – we will examine the status of barrier island restoration. Over the coming days, we’ll publish a series of blog posts that detail what work has been done to restore Louisiana’s barrier islands, the importance of these islands to birds and humans alike, as well as Audubon Louisiana’s role before, during and after the restoration process to monitor and improve bird health on these islands and elsewhere.

Part 2: "Barrier Islands: A Critical Investment for Bird Health"

By Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation, Audubon Louisiana, @AudubonErik

As we discussed in the first blog post, coastal Louisiana is rich with bird life, and barrier islands play a central role in the population dynamics of many species. This is particularly true for seabirds that nest on islands, isolated from the mainland and its many mammalian predators. These seabirds live life on the edge of the Earth, and barrier islands are the key to their survival.

So how does the restoration of barrier islands benefit these nesting seabirds? Seabirds, like terns and gulls, as well as some coastal-nesting shorebirds, like Wilson’s Plovers and American Oystercatchers, place their eggs on the ground (although a few species, like Brown Pelicans prefer low shrubs, like mangroves). These nesting birds are not only susceptible to mammalian predators, but also the overwash of storms. As islands and their dune systems erode, nests are inevitably placed closer and closer to the high tide line putting them at greater risk to the overwash of even small storms. Renesting can be possible, but at some point becomes futile. And with fewer and fewer islands available, eventually space runs out, and populations decline. The restoration of these islands increases opportunities and space for placing nests, and helps elevate nests to reduce their chances of overwashing.

Royal Terns, Breton Island Photo: USFWS, Greg Thompson

Royal Terns, Breton Island Photo: USFWS, Greg Thompson

There is another important consideration for barrier island restoration – for seabirds, bigger is not necessarily better. Anyone who has taken an introduction to ecology course might recall “Island Biogeography Theory”. It suggests that the bigger the island and the closer it is to shore, the more species it can support. This sounds great, right? But those additional species can be (and often are) predators. So for a seabird, smaller islands farther from shore are better. Predators like coyotes, raccoons, rats, skunks, foxes, feral cats, fire ants and even nutria, have a harder time getting to those islands and surviving there. This becomes important when thinking about barrier island restoration. Although there is a clear need to build large islands that protect interior shorelines and communities, this may actually serve as an ecological trap for nesting seabirds. Those larger islands can support more predators, and while the habitat looks perfectly suitable to a Black Skimmer, Least Tern, or Sandwich Tern, it could also be full of predators ready to eat their eggs and chicks.

Least Tern, Elmers Island, Louisiana Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

Least Tern, Elmers Island, Louisiana Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

As far as we know, only the distant Chandeleur Islands and its neighbors are mostly or entirely free of coyotes, and probably most other kinds of mammalian predators. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries surveys last spring documented that these islands were full of nesting seabirds, although probably not in numbers like during the glory days of Curlew Island, which supported tens of thousands of nesting pairs of Sandwich Terns and Royal Terns in the 1970s. Clearly, the commitment of restoration to Breton Island is tremendously important for the recovery of seabirds in coastal Louisiana, as will be the restoration of other nearshore, small (predator-free) bay islands, like Queen Bess in Barataria Bay.

In the next blog, we’ll talk more about how Audubon Louisiana works to protect birds before, during and after barrier island restoration projects.

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Barrier Island Restoration: An Investment in Coastal LA’s Future and for Nesting Seabirds, Part 1

April 18, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in Birds, coastal restoration, Restoration Projects

Our partners at Audubon Louisiana published a series of blog posts that we are cross-posting here. View the original blog post here.

As we mark the sixth anniversary of the BP oil spill this week – an event that significantly and negatively impacted Louisiana’s already disappearing barrier islands and the species that depend on them – we will examine the status of barrier island restoration. Over the coming days, we’ll publish a series of blog posts that detail what work has been done to restore Louisiana’s barrier islands, the importance of these islands to birds and humans alike, as well as Audubon Louisiana’s role before, during and after the restoration process to monitor and improve bird health on these islands and elsewhere.

Part 1: "Louisiana Barrier Islands: A Coastal Restoration Success Story"

By Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation, Audubon Louisiana, @AudubonErik

As you look out into the Gulf of Mexico, off Louisiana’s coastline, are a string of barrier islands. They are remnants of former deltas – as the Mississippi River has flipped and flopped across the southeastern part of state over the last 6,000 years, marshes were created, and eventually eroded away, only leaving behind these sand berms where the river and sea once met. Today, those ancient headland remnants continue to erode, but now the river no longer serves to rebuild them. Sediment that once flowed down the Mississippi River is now either dammed upstream or falls off the edge of the continental shelf at the mouth of the River. Louisiana is in a fight against nature to keep its barrier islands.

Louisiana’s barrier islands were significantly impacted by the 2010 BP oil disaster – six years ago next week– that enveloped them in oil at the height of nesting season and expedited their rate of disappearance. Remember the $4.5 billion dollars BP had to pay in federal criminal penalties? The State of Louisiana received $1.2 billion of that to use toward coastal restoration, and has dedicated it to the development of river diversions to rebuild marsh, as well as the restoration and reconstruction of barrier islands. Many hundreds of millions of dollars from other sources, like CWPPRA, CIAP, and NRDA (to name a few) also support barrier island protection and restoration.

The continued deterioration of Caminada headland threatens thousands of acres of wetland habitat, as well as critical infrastructure. The project creates 300 acres of back barrier marsh and nourishes 130 acres of emergent marsh behind the Caminada beach using material dredged from the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Patrick M. Quigley, Gulf Coast Air Photo

The continued deterioration of Caminada headland threatens thousands of acres of wetland habitat, as well as critical infrastructure. The project creates 300 acres of back barrier marsh and nourishes 130 acres of emergent marsh behind the Caminada beach using material dredged from the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Patrick M. Quigley, Gulf Coast Air Photo

Since the development of the state’s 2007 Master Plan, Louisiana has reconstructed over 45 miles of barrier islands, and for good reason. Barrier islands are an important infrastructure investment in coastal Louisiana. They help protect marshes and human communities from storm surges and hurricanes.

Barrier islands also play a critical role in the life cycle of dozens of migratory shorebirds and breeding seabirds. Louisiana, at the base of the Mississippi Flyway and with the Mississippi River Delta central to the Gulf of Mexico, supports astoundingly high proportions of regional or global populations of many coastal nesting species of conservation concern. Many of these species largely depend on barrier islands for nesting, including Brown Pelicans, Tricolored Herons, Sandwich Terns, Royal Terns and Black Skimmers. Coastal Louisiana’s shorelines and barrier islands also support important stopover and wintering habitat for a substantial proportion of Great Plains Piping Plovers, hendersoni Short-billed Dowitchers and western Willets, as well as many other species of sandpiper and plover.

Black Skimmers in Grand Isle, La Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

Black Skimmers in Grand Isle, La Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

Up next, we’ll get into the specifics of why barrier islands are so important to birds.

 

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MRD Staff Bag 10 Tons of Oyster Shell with CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program

March 28, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in coastal restoration, Restoration Projects

By Deborah Abibou, Restoration Programs Director, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana

On March 4th, 20 Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition staff members rolled up their sleeves and volunteered for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program. In doing so, they accomplished three of their favorite things: taking action to restore the coast, spending time breathing in the fresh coastal air and hanging out with other folks who share a passion for Louisiana’s coast.

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MRD Staffers volunteer with CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program.

CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program has just been awarded the 2016 Conservation Achievement Award from Louisiana Wildlife Federation. This award recognizes CRCL’s efforts to return harvested oyster shell to Louisiana’s waters for coastal restoration projects. Since its inception in June 2014, the program has become the largest of its kind in the nation!

In Buras, a small town located along the Mississippi River south of New Orleans in Plaquemines Parish, staff witnessed the piles and piles of oyster shell that CRCL has collected from 26 partner restaurants. Thanks to a generous $1 million grant from Shell, the program has been able to collect more than 1,750 tons of shell.

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Jessie Ritter, National Wildlife Federation. Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society. Jackson Rollings, CRCL.

CRCL’s Restore the Mississippi River Delta partners bagged an incredible 10 tons of oyster shell! These bags will be stacked into wire construction baskets, which will be the building blocks of CRCL’s first shoreline protection project to be placed in Louisiana’s Biloxi Marsh. This half-mile structure will provide a hard substrate to jumpstart the formation of a living oyster reef. The main purpose of CRCL’s oyster reef project is to prevent the marsh from eroding by creating a wave break and allowing land to build up behind it. This will help us hold onto one more piece of our coast.

Oyster reefs are like the Swiss army knife of coastal restoration – they filter water, provide habitat for fish and other wildlife, contribute spat to oyster leases and act as wave breaks. 

For more information about the program and to sign up to volunteer, visit CRCL.org.

Check out some more pictures from the MRD staff volunteer day:

MRD staff atop pallets of oyster bags. These will be put into baskets and placed in the marsh.

Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition staff atop pallets of oyster bags. These will be put into baskets and placed in the marsh.

Steve Cochran, Campaign Director; Cathleen Berthelot, Campaign Manager; and Brooke Randolph, Office Manager cut and tie bags to be filled with shell.

Steve Cochran, Campaign Director; Cathleen Berthelot, Campaign Manager; and Brooke Randolph, Office Manager cut and tie bags to be filled with shell.

MRD Staff bagging some of the 1750 tons of oyster shell reclaimed by CRCL.

Staff bagging some of the 1,750 tons of oyster shell reclaimed by CRCL.

Samantha Carter, Outreach Committee Chair, National Wildlife Federation.

Samantha Carter, Senior Outreach Coordinator, National Wildlife Federation.

Completed bags of oysters along the Buras Harbor.

Completed bags of oysters along the Buras Harbor.

Deborah Visco Abibou is the Restoration Programs Director for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL). She leads CRCL’s Volunteer Habitat Restoration Program and Oyster Shell Recycling Program. She joined CRCL in 2015 and is a broadly trained ecologist. She earned a PhD from Tulane University in 2015 and her B.S. in Environmental Biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2006. She gained ecology and conservation experience in New York, Dominica (West Indies), Australia, California and New Hampshire before beginning her graduate studies in New Orleans. She has managed multiple projects, secured funding, directed field crews, authored papers and taught science at all levels. Previously, she served as Lead Bird Bander and Programming Director with the Woodlands Conservancy in Belle Chasse.

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World Water Day 2016: Louisiana, Water and Coastal Restoration Jobs

March 22, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in coastal restoration, Economics, Economy, Job Creation, Restoration Projects, Videos

Today (March 22) is the United Nations’ World Water Day – an international observance and opportunity to learn about water-related issues, be inspired and teach others, and take action to make a difference.

Today, almost half of the world's workers – 1.5 billion people – work in water-related sectors, and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery. Each year, the UN sets a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge. This year’s theme, “Water and Jobs,” focuses on how the quantity and quality of water can change workers' lives and livelihoods and even transform societies and economies for the better.

Water offers Louisianians nearly unlimited economic potential; but, in contrast, it poses a major threat to our coast, and the people and wildlife that call south Louisiana home. This is why coastal restoration is imperative for our vanishing coast – not only as protection against storm surge, but also to preserve the estuaries that produce 25% of American seafood, habitat for the 100 million birds that pass through the Mississippi River Delta each year, and home of nearly 2 million people living in or near the delta.

In Louisiana’s Coastal Zone, the water management sector – which includes coastal restoration, coastal protection and urban water management – is now the fastest growing industry, driving economic expansion and eclipsing the oil and gas sector in creating new jobs, according to a recent study by the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition using research by The Data Center.

Coastal restoration and protection is not only the biggest jobs creator in coastal Louisiana, it has some of the highest-paying jobs, averaging $69,277 per year.

So what is coastal restoration anyway and what does it look like? The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, a member of the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, has produced a video, A View of Restoration from the Barataria Basin, which gives a high-level overview of the issue, the impacts and causes of coastal land loss and an in-depth view of the different restoration projects occurring in the Barataria Basin.

Watch A View of Restoration from the Barataria Basin below for a better sense of how coastal restoration projects all work together to help restore our coast.

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What can the 1927 flood teach us about coastal restoration?

February 2, 2016 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Diversions, Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Restoration Projects, Science

By Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund

During the historic 1927 flood, a portion of the Mississippi River levee south of New Orleans was dynamited to lower the water level and prevent catastrophic flooding – seen in much of the Mississippi River Basin – from occurring in the city. This explosion created a 2-kilometer wide crevasse, which redirected water into nearby Breton Sound.

Nearly 90 years later, scientists have completed measurements in the upper Breton Sound basin to quantify the sediment deposition in the 50-square-mile crevasse splay created by the levee break.

In the study, “Sediment Deposition at the Caernarvon Crevasse during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927: Implications for Coastal Restoration,” John W. Day et al. state that “The 1927 crevasse deposition shows how pulsed flooding can enhance sediment capture efficiency and deposition and serves as an example for large planned diversions for Mississippi delta restoration.”

Figure 2. The Breton Sound Estuary. Dots indicate where core samples were taken and the approximate area of the crevasse splay deposit based on researchers measurements. Blue dots indicate cores that has additional analysis carried out. Upper right inset: aerial photo showing Mississippi River flowing through the 1927 Caernarvon levee breach. Dark black line at hte site of the crevasse is the estimated width of the levee breach.

Figure 2. The Breton Sound Estuary. Dots indicate where core samples were taken and the approximate area of the crevasse splay deposit based on researchers' measurements. Blue dots indicate cores that had additional analysis carried out. Upper right inset: aerial photo showing Mississippi River flowing through the 1927 Caernarvon levee breach. Dark black line at the site of the crevasse is the estimated width of the levee breach. John W. Day et al.

Researchers found a distinct layer of sediment from the 1927 crevasse, ranging from 0.8-16.5 inches thick, at 23 of the sites they sampled, with the thickest layer closest to the river. The investigators estimated that more than 40 million tons of sediment flowed from the Mississippi River into Breton Sound during the 108 days the crevasse was open.

The marshes in the splay captured approximately 55-75 percent of the suspended sediments that poured through the crevasse, which resulted in the deposition of roughly 30 million tons of sediment within the 50-square-mile crevasse splay. In one core, the sediment deposition rate in 1927 was at least 0.8 inches per month – that’s 10 times more than the annual post-1927 average. The results of this study could have important implications for future coastal restoration projects, specifically sediment diversions.

Lessons learned for restoration

The flood of 1927 was an unprecedented, fatal flood that caused massive and widespread economic and structural damages. Louisiana, as well as all the other communities along the Mississippi River, are now largely protected by a federal system of levees and spillways, as evidenced during this year’s winter flood.

But the 1927 flood also provided a major land-building opportunity, as wetlands help provide protection from future flooding and loss of life. Large, episodic flood events, like the 1927 flood and this winter’s high-water event, can be used to build vast land in relatively short periods of time, while balancing the needs of the ecosystem and the people and wildlife that depend on it.

The state of Louisiana is currently working to engineer and design controlled river diversions, which would harness the power of the river to build land. This past fall, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority voted to advance the Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton sediment diversions. Controlled sediment diversions like these are vital components of any large-scale restoration plans.

Possible effects on fisheries

Despite their land-building potential, there currently exist some questions and concerns about how sediment diversions will affect fisheries. The researchers determined that the periodic opening of flood control structures, such as the Bonnet Carré Spillway and the 1927 crevasse, during high-water events, demonstrate the balance that can be achieved between inflows of fresh water and fishery concerns.

“The periodic opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway and the 1927 crevasse at Caernarvon serve as good models for understanding the significance of this fishery concern. The periodic openings have minimized algal blooms to short periods and resulted in larger fisheries catches in years following openings,” the study says.

“Given predictions of accelerated sea level rise, increasing human impacts, and growing energy scarcity, delta restoration should be aggressive and large-scale. We believe that restoration of the Mississippi delta will require diversions similar in scale to historical crevasses if they are to be most effective.”

How was the research conducted? 

The scientists collected 23 sediment cores that extended down 1 meter throughout the 50-square-mile crevasse outfall area. The core sediments were analyzed for sediment type, properties and age. Deposition of sediment from the crevasse extended over seven miles from the break in the levee.

The 1927 sediment deposits were found at an average depth of 13.8 inches below the marsh surface, suggesting a post-1927 deposition rate of 0.2 inches per year. Deposition rates ranged from 0.2 to 4.6 inches per month over the 3.6 months that the crevasse was open.

The estimated sediment load entering through the crevasse from the river during the 1927 event was 40 to 54 million tons, and roughly 30 million tons of that sediment was deposited and retained within the 50-square-mile crevasse splay. Based on the varying thickness of the 1927 deposit over the splay, the volume of the 1927 deposit could cover 11.5 square miles with about 3 feet of sediment.

The lessons learned from researching previous high-water events can help planners design the best, most effective restoration solutions to help rebuild wetlands vital to our future.

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Mississippi River’s High Water Brings (Literally) Tons of Needed Sediment to Louisiana

January 20, 2016 | Posted by jhebert in 2011 Mississippi River Flood, Army Corps of Engineers, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Diversions, Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Science

By Alisha Renfro, Staff Scientist, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, National Wildlife Federation

This is the second in a series of blog posts focusing on the recent opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway in response to the Mississippi River high-water event. See the first post on the history of the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) system here

The current high-water event on the Mississippi River is sending more than one million cubic feet of water per second down the lower Mississippi River, carrying with it sediment that is an essential ingredient to restoring Louisiana’s wetlands. The unfortunate irony is that a great deal of this sediment is passing right through Louisiana and off the outer continental shelf, beyond where it can be of any immediate restorative benefit to the state’s vanishing wetlands.

Historically, flood events like this helped to build and maintain the once vast wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta. Today, without sediment diversion projects in place, much of that turbid brown water completely bypasses our sediment-starved wetlands and is lost. Once in place, sediment diversions, integrated with the flood protection system, will capture this opportunity and put the river back to work rebuilding our wetlands.

SedimentGraphJan2016

On average, the Mississippi River carries about 2.5 tons of sediment per second past the Belle Chasse river gage south of New Orleans. However, during high discharge events, sediment load in the river can increase considerably. When river discharge reaches one million cubic feet per second, roughly 6.5 tons of sediment is carried past the Belle Chasse station every second – that’s more than double the average.

Over the last two years, an estimated 184 million tons of sediment has passed Belle Chasse. Some of this sediment is deposited in the river channel, in wetlands and in shallow water around the Bird’s Foot Delta. However, most of this sediment is lost to deeper waters off the continental shelf, as seen in the above MODIS satellite image.

As Louisiana’s land loss crisis has worsened, the need to capture and use this sediment is greater than ever. But while our sediment counter continues to tick away, some progress has been made. Since 2012, projects in the vicinity of Lake Hermitage, Bayou Dupont and Grand Liard have used sediment dredged from the river to create land. Even more significant, last October, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority recommended the advancement of two sediment diversion projects at Mid Barataria and Mid Breton into engineering and design. Together, marsh creation and sediment diversion projects will better leverage the precious resource that is constantly flowing through our state to help restore Louisiana’s coast.

Hopefully the next time we have a high-water event like this one, we’ll have sediment diversions in place to make the most out of the situation: to both reduce potential flooding AND capture sediment for restoration. Now that’s a win-win.

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