Archive for Restoration Projects
By Elizabeth Weiner, Senior Policy Manager, Environmental Defense Fund
Last week, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council approved its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) of projects and programs to fund with civil penalties available from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Transocean settlement. This is an important step forward for the entire Gulf Coast that is still recovering from the spill. In particular for the Mississippi River Delta, the FPL demonstrates both the state of Louisiana’s commitment to funding Coastal Master Plan projects with RESTORE dollars and progress in implementing the master plan.
Louisiana submitted five project proposals, all of which are projects from the Coastal Master Plan. While these projects are still in planning phases, they represent critical near-term opportunities to keep the Mississippi River Delta on its path to recovery and sustainability. The Louisiana master plan projects receiving funding include:
- Golden Triangle Marsh Creation Project ($4.3 million; planning)
- Mississippi River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp Project ($14.2 million; planning)
- Biloxi Marsh Living Shoreline Project ($3.2 million; planning)
- West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment and Stabilization Project ($7.3 million; planning)
- Lowermost Mississippi River Management Program ($9.3 million; planning)
Two additional projects, Jean Lafitte Canal Backfilling ($8.7 million; implementation) and Bayou Dularge Ridge, Marsh and Hydrologic Restoration ($5.2 million; planning), are also located in Louisiana and were included in the Council’s FPL. These two projects, submitted for funding by federal members of the RESTORE Council, are complementary to and consistent with the Coastal Master Plan and will directly benefit coastal Louisiana.
The finalization of this FPL comes in follow-up to positive progress made through other Gulf oil spill funding streams – the National Fish and Wildlife Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, created by criminal plea agreements with multiple responsible parties, and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDA) process.
Now that BP’s settlement of civil penalties and responsibilities under NRDA is pending, both the RESTORE Council and the NRDA Trustee Council will be able to make even more progress, with an eye toward large-scale restoration. For the RESTORE Council, the next step will be an update to its Initial Comprehensive Plan to improve decision-making, project selection, and to consider the projects planned and funded through the other oil spill funding streams. For the NRDA Trustees, their next step will be considering public comments and finalizing the draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan.No Comments
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding
(December 9, 2015 – Biloxi, Miss.) Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council voted to approve its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) – a compilation of restoration projects the Council will prioritize for funding and implementation following the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. This set of projects will be funded by a portion of RESTORE Act dollars designated for ecosystem restoration from the Transocean Clean Water Act settlement.
National and local conservation organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:
“We congratulate the RESTORE Council and staff on their efforts to finalize this Funded Priorities List. Our organizations look forward to continuing to monitor projects as they move into the implementation phase.
“Additionally, now that the BP settlement is near final, the RESTORE Council and the Gulf states have a tremendous opportunity ahead to achieve broader meaningful restoration and lasting resilience for the essential ecosystems of the Gulf. However, with certainty around funding levels, the Council will be faced with difficult decisions. In order to make progress toward comprehensive restoration, the Council will need a science-based process for prioritizing future projects, with a focus on more large-scale proposals. With the first BP settlement payments on the horizon, it is essential that the Council promptly turn its attention to updating the Comprehensive Plan, so that it can serve as a tool to guide future investments around the Gulf. We stand ready to assist the Council and staff as they undertake this critical next step.”
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, email@example.com
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, email@example.com
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, email@example.com
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, firstname.lastname@example.org
By Alisha Renfro, Staff Scientist, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, National Wildlife Federation
There’s less sediment moving down the Mississippi River than there used to be. Much of that missing material is trapped behind dams built upriver of Louisiana. Despite the reduction in sediment it carries, the Mississippi is still mighty with approximately 90 million tons of sediment passing the city of Belle Chasse, La. each year1. Tragically, much of that mud and sand will be carried past the sediment-starved wetlands and barrier islands of the delta – where it could have great benefits – and out into the Gulf, leaving us with a missed opportunity to restore health and resiliency to our coast.
The new sediment counter, published on the homepage of our website, shows the tons of sand and mud in the water that moves pass the USGS gage in Belle Chasse, La every second. For this counter, the sediment is estimated using the relationship between sediment and the flow of the Mississippi River at Belle Chasse for years 2008 to 2010, as described by Mead Allison, Ph.D. and others in the appendix of their 2012 paper, “A water and sediment budget for the lower Mississippi–Atchafalaya River in flood years 2008–2010: Implications for sediment discharge to the oceans and coastal restoration in Louisiana.” For more specific details, see “How we calculated uncaptured sediment.”
While there is no single solution for restoring our coast, it is vital that we treat sediment as the precious resource it is and maximize its capture and use for coastal restoration. The 2012 Coastal Master Plan identified two types of projects, marsh creation and sediment diversions, that use sediment to build and maintain land. Marsh creation projects dredge and pipeline sand from the river to strategically build new land. However, reliance on this project type alone means missing out on the mud that makes up at least 70 percent of the sediment that the river carries. Sediment diversion projects tap into both the sand the mud carried by the river to build new land and to help sustain the existing wetlands, that in the absence of sediment input, would continue to rapidly disappear.
Using these two types of restoration projects we can use the sand and mud – the foundation and lifeblood of the delta – to create a healthy and more resilient future for coastal Louisiana.No Comments
By Emily Guidry Schatzel, Senior Communications Manager, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation
Louisiana’s Mississippi River Delta is a region in dire need of comprehensive restoration. We all know the harrowing statistic facing coastal Louisiana: every hour, a football field of land vanishes off the coast. According to historical averages, Louisiana loses 16 to 25 square miles per year. The rest of the Gulf, which is in many places still working to rebound economically and ecologically from the 2010 Gulf oil disaster, is also in need of projects that will advance real restoration.
Despite this, 2015 was a good year for coastal Louisiana in many ways. We have a lot to be thankful for this year:
$20.8 billion settlement in Gulf oil spill is largest environmental settlement in U.S. history
More than five years after the start of the 2010 oil spill, the Justice Department and five Gulf States announced they reached a $20.8 billion settlement with BP. We’re thankful for the settlement and federal rules like the RESTORE Act of 2012 that ensure most of the money will be used for restoring the Gulf ecosystem. While $6 billion of the total settlement will go to economic damages across the Gulf states, the remaining more than $14 billion will go to restoring the environment – including critically injured coastal fish and wildlife habitat. In Louisiana, the Coastal Master Plan’s suite of land-building restoration projects will receive at least $4 billion. It’s not nearly enough to get the entire list of projects in the master plan done, but it’s a start, backed by real dollars that weren’t available prior to the settlement.
Restore Council’s priorities list included four of our priority projects
In August, the Gulf Coast Restoration Council released their draft Initial Funded Priorities List which proposed to dedicate $139.6 million from the oil spill settlement with Transocean Deepwater Inc. to projects and programs that would provide near-term benefits to the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. In Louisiana, this list proposed funding for four of our nineteen priority projects: Mississippi River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp, Golden Triangle Marsh Creation, Biloxi Marsh Living Shoreline and West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment and Stabilization.
Next steps for Louisiana’s first sediment diversions announced
Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) recommended advancing both the Mid Barataria and Mid Breton sediment diversion projects in the Coastal Master Plan, which will reintroduce fresh water and sediment from the Mississippi River into its surrounding wetlands and rebuild land over time. We appreciate this important step toward getting sediment diversions up and running; the urgency and severity of our collapsing delta requires that we use the most powerful tools at our disposal. Sediment diversions provide the best opportunity to restore the coast over time, preserving our communities, industries and entire way of life.
LA- 1: Huge win for protecting coastal restoration funding
In October, Governor Jindal proposed that the CPRA Board redirect money from the Coastal Master Plan to fund the elevation of Louisiana Highway 1. Our Coalition immediately took action by vocally opposing this proposal and launching the “Protect the Funding” campaign to raise awareness and garner support to safeguard coastal dollars for restoration. With a flurry of last minute decisions, a better alternative was reached. The Board replaced the draft resolution with one directing CPRA staff to develop a prioritization process for coastal infrastructure projects that could spend up to 10% of available funds under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). GOMESA has already authorized such spending up to 10%, and this is an appropriate use of those dollars. We are thankful that funds dedicated for coastal restoration were kept right where they should be – not redirected to other projects.
Polls show voter support for coastal restoration
Encouraging news – a poll of likely Louisiana voters showed that nearly 94 percent of respondents valued a candidate’s commitment to protect and restore coastal Louisiana. An overwhelming majority (90 percent) said they want the next governor to ensure funds currently dedicated to coastal restoration are not spent on anything but coastal restoration, and 87 percent want the next governor to work to identify and secure additional funding for future projects identified in the state’s Coastal Master Plan.
- 85 percent believe restoration of coastal Louisiana should be a high priority for the new governor
- 95 percent want the new governor to commit to move quickly and get started building coastal restoration projects
- 78 percent believe protecting and restoring coastal Louisiana is as important as other issues facing the state
- 97 percent say Louisiana’s coastal areas and wetlands are important to them personally
- Two-thirds (66 percent) indicate support for river diversions to build new land in Louisiana
Launched "Restore the Coast" Community Engagement Campaign
In August, our Coalition launched the “Restore the Coast” community engagement campaign to highlight the important role Louisiana’s elected officials play in coastal restoration. This multifaceted, nonpartisan education campaign encouraged Louisiana voters to sign a pledge urging leaders to: be a voice for coastal restoration, protect existing and secure future coastal restoration funding, and support Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan. Our goal was to send a clear message to our public officials: Louisianians want leaders who will prioritize coastal restoration, by keeping restoration dollars for restoration and continuing the forward progress made through the coastal master planning process.
The “Restore the Coast” campaign included television and radio commercials, billboards, print ads, tabling at local community events, as well as interactive street activities to engage the public and encourage social sharing of this important issue facing Louisiana. Over the course of the entire "Restore the Coast" campaign, we secured over 13,500 pledges, our materials were seen by more than 1 million people online and our videos had more than 335,000 views! We are so thankful for our supporters!
Louisiana’s newly-elected governor made strong commitments
Additionally, Governor-elect John Bel Edwards recently wrote in response to handling key coastal issues while in office:
“I look forward to working with stakeholders to ensure timely funding of coastal restoration projects.
We have lost nearly 2000 square miles of coastal land mass over the last 100 years. The economic contributions of Louisiana’s coast exceed $20 billion per year. But much of this is threatened, including our fisheries, wildlife, tourism, oil and gas, and shipping and navigation industries.
We must immediately match the scale of the crisis with the response, implementing unprecedented coordination and taking three primary actions:
1. Create certainty of funding
2. Ensure the funding is spent only on coastal restoration master plan and priority of projects
3. Fully and convincingly making the case to the Congress and the Administration that coastal restoration in Louisiana is a national priority worth of funding tens of billions of dollars
The Coastal Restoration Master Plan is a living document which must be constantly revisited through the lens of new and better science.”
A voting public and a new governor showing strong commitments to coastal restoration, spending wisely and rebuilding our great Mississippi River Delta are all things to truly be thankful for.