Archive for Restoration Projects

Expert Diversion Panel: State has all information needed to make decision on advancing diversions

October 1, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Diversions, Restoration Projects, Science

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

Diversion Locations

Diversion locations

Sediment diversions are restoration projects that carry sediment and water from the river through a gated structure on the levee into nearby basins, mimicking the way the Mississippi River once built much of southeast Louisiana. This type of project was identified in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan as a vital tool for far-reaching and long-lasting restoration of our coastal wetlands. Four sediment diversion projects from the Coastal Master Plan –Mid-Barataria, Mid-Breton, Lower-Barataria and Lower Breton – are currently moving forward in either planning or engineering and design. This fall, the state is expected to announce which sediment diversion projects they will continue move forward into full engineering and design.

Data collection and modeling efforts allowed the state to study and understand the full benefits that a sediment diversion could provide to our coastal wetlands and to anticipate the influence of the project on water levels, fisheries and salinity distribution in the receiving basins compared to future conditions without sediment diversions. In addition to those studies, an Expert Diversion Panel on Planning and Implementation – an independent group from outside of Louisiana with expertise in natural science, social science and engineering – was convened by the Water Institute of the Gulf to provide advice and guidance to CPRA on plans for sediment diversion projects.

The fifth meeting of this panel, held in August, focused on the state’s approach to using the data and modeling information to decide which sediment diversion projects will move forward. On September 16th, the Expert Panel released its report from that meeting, agreeing that the state had the information it needed to decide which sediment diversion projects to advance. The panel also decided that the socio-economic analysis and the work being done to predict the effect of diversions on the basins are appropriate for this stage of the process.

In the panel’s opinion “no other environmental restoration project in the nation has come so far so quickly.” The state’s decision on which sediment diversion projects to focus its efforts on and move into engineering and design is important, as it is one step forward in a longer process towards full implementation. Using sediment diversions to put the sediment of the river back to work for us is crucial for restoration and one the best tools we have to create a sustainable future for Louisiana.

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New report quantifies storm reduction benefits of natural infrastructure and nature-based measures

September 29, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Restoration Projects, Science

By Shannon Cunniff, Deputy Director for Water, Environmental Defense Fund

Coastal zones are the most densely populated areas in the world. In the U.S., they generate more than 42 percent of the nation’s total economic output. These coastal communities, cities and infrastructure are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising seas and increased storms, as well as ongoing coastal development, have stripped these natural environments of their innate resilience to storms and flooding, leaving coastlines and the people who live there especially exposed.

EDF photo beach dune

Beach dune

Protecting coastal areas requires a multipronged approach. Traditional hardened infrastructure, such as levees and floodwalls, should be combined with natural infrastructure, such as dunes and barrier islands, to optimize storm protection. By attenuating wave energy, natural infrastructure measures can enhance the performance of and complement traditional gray infrastructure. And in certain situations, natural coastal infrastructure measures can reverse coastal erosion, help rebuild shorelines and even keep pace with rising sea levels.

Natural coastal infrastructure measures also provide significant co-benefits to communities. In addition to reducing the effects of storm waves and surge, these wetlands and other plant-based means also improve water quality, enhance recreational and commercial fisheries, add to the coastal esthetic and attract tourists. Their installation or restoration can also buy time for communities as they develop long-term strategic plans to cope with sea level rise.

In Louisiana, coastal planners understand the importance of nature-based designs, such as sediment diversions and barrier beach nourishment, when developing coastal restoration and protection plans – the state’s Coastal Master Plan is a combination of restoration, protection and resiliency projects.

But with their myriad of benefits, why aren’t natural infrastructure measures being implemented to a greater degree in other parts of the nation?

In part, the reason is the lack of accepted engineering design guidance – a document that explains the engineering principles, issues, methods, and performance metrics for evaluating, siting and designing features. Lacking such, engineers cannot formally sign off on the designs and risk benefits that will be realized.

How can we quantify the storm risk reduction benefits of nature-based measures, so as to help decision-makers and planners choose the best methods for their needs and find financing to implement these projects? Can we accelerate development of engineering guidance?

Natural Infrastructure Workshop and Report

Mangroves public domain pix


Seeking to answer these questions, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) convened a workshop of 19 coastal engineers, scientists, program managers, and financiers to discuss establishing storm risk reduction performance measures of various natural coastal infrastructure solutions.

After completion, EDF produced the report, “Performance of Natural Infrastructure and Nature-Based Measures as Coastal Risk Reduction Features,” which reviews the state of knowledge on the risk reduction performance of natural and nature-based infrastructure, compiled from existing literature as well as workshop participant input. The report includes findings on a host of nature-based measures, including beach nourishment, vegetated dunes, barrier island restoration, edging and sills (living shorelines), oyster reefs, coral reefs, mangroves, maritime forests and coastal wetlands (non-mangroves).

While the report is a bit technical, the authors hope that city planners, coastal engineers and other decision-makers find it useful when determining which storm protection measures to implement in their communities.

Grand Terre_Abita SOS 2

Grand Terre

For each of the measures, the report summarizes its storm risk reduction attributes (e.g., wave attenuation and storm surge protection); lists its strengths, known weaknesses and uncertainties about utility for risk reduction; and identifies suitable conditions for implementation. The report also indicates where engineering design guidelines already exist (e.g., for beach nourishment and dune building) and whether they can be created by modifying existing guidelines (e.g., oyster and coral reefs function like submerged breakwaters).

For the layperson, Table 1 is a one stop shop for information on how each storm risk reduction measure stacks up next to other methods. The table is a summary of the strategies – natural, nature-based, as well as structural – and how each compares regarding risk reduction performance, costs, climate change mitigation, and adaptability to seal level rise and changing community needs.

NI Performance Summary Table

To guide further research supporting adoption of natural infrastructure into coastal resilience plans, the report provides the most catalytic and pressing research needs and lists other survey needs gathered from the literature or raised during the workgroup discussion.

Workshop participants – and subsequent consultation with other engineering experts – confirm that there is sufficient confidence in the ability of natural coastal infrastructure measures to reduce impacts of storms and sea level rise to coastal communities, such that these approaches should be routinely considered as viable options by decision-makers.

With what we know now, implementation of these approaches can be facilitated by developing detailed engineering guidelines that provide functional and structural design guidance as well as address other design issues. As projects are built and monitored, we can further expand knowledge of the circumstances where these measures work best; learn more about how traditional structural, nonstructural, natural infrastructure and nature-based measures can optimally work together; understand how coastal processes are effected; and track the measures’ life expectancies in our increasingly dynamic coastal environments.

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MRD Priority Restoration Projects Included in Restore Council's Initial Draft Funded Priorities List

September 27, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 19 Priority Projects, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Meetings/Events, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

By Helen Rose Patterson, Greater New Orleans Outreach Coordinator, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition

Last week, the RESTORE Council completed the last of six public meetings about their draft Initial Funded Priorities List. Restore the Mississippi River Delta staff attended the meeting in New Orleans on the University of New Orleans campus.

Justin Ehrenwerth, executive director of the RESTORE Council, provided a brief overview of the Council-selected priority watersheds in the Gulf and a more detailed explanation of the projects in Louisiana. Attendees were then given a chance to address the council. The comments were generally positive and tended in the direction of ‘let’s get started rebuilding the coast.’

The seven proposed Louisiana projects include four that are part of Restore the Mississippi River Delta’s list of nineteen priority projects:

  1. Golden Triangle Marsh Creation will provide further protection to New Orleans’ surge barrier and improve the estuary habitat in Lake Borgne.
  2. The Biloxi Marsh Living Shoreline project will provide planning dollars to restore the important habitat and reduce shoreline erosion in the area.
  3. The Mississippi River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp will provide further planning funds for a freshwater diversion from the Mississippi River into the Maurepas swamp which will improve wetland health and provide protection for communities to the west of Lake Pontchartrain.
  4. Finally, the West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment and Stabilization project, part of the larger Barataria Pass to Sandy Point Restoration priority project, would provide for planning to restore and enhance dune and back barrier marsh habitat on West Grand Terre to address shoreline erosion and marsh subsidence.


The FPL also includes other projects important to the Mississippi River Delta, such as canal backfilling in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve and funding for improved study of management of the lowermost Mississippi River.

We appreciate the inclusion of these projects and hope it is just the Council’s first step in addressing long-standing issues in the Mississippi River Delta. We also appreciate that the Council has gone to great lengths to leverage funding from other sources as this will maximize the impact of their investments. Moving forward, we would like to see a more transparent process for the selection and prioritization of projects. We believe that the priorities found in the RESTORE Act should be at the forefront of the Council’s project selection framework and we encourage them to elaborate on how these priorities were integrated into the process of creating this list. We hope that moving forward, project lists will be more focused on large-scale, multi-year projects to more fully achieve the goals of the RESTORE Act.

Citizens have until September 28th to provide comments on the projects. Those comments can be submitted by emailing or mailing to: Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. Attention: Draft FPL Comments, Hale Boggs Federal Building, 500 Poydras Street, Suite 1117, New Orleans, LA 70130.

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Remembering Rita: 10 Years Later

September 24, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Economy, Hurricane Rita, Hurricanes, People, Profiles in Resilience, Restoration Projects

Today, September 24, marks 10 years since Hurricane Rita – the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico – slammed ashore sending a storm surge up to 18 feet in some locations, killing 120 people, damaging areas stretching from Plaquemines to Cameron Parishes and into Texas and causing over $10 billion in damages.

Rita demonstrated that the best offense against future storms is strong “Multiple Lines of Defense” that begins with restoring and preserving the wetlands that buffer wind and waves working in conjunction will structural risk reduction measures and non-structural measures, such as levees and home elevation.

This week, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition welcomes guest authors to our “Delta Dispatches” blog to share their perspectives of Rita and where things stand ten years later.

Hurricane Rita – A palpable shift in the evolution of sustainable housing in Coastal Louisiana.
by: Peg Case, Director of TRAC (Terrebonne Readiness & Assistance Coalition), Houma, LA

Terrebonne Parish is over 85% wetland and open water. Barataria-Terrebonne Basins continue to suffer the highest land loss rates in the state. There are five bayous stretching to the Gulf of Mexico like fingers of a hand. These bayou communities, most vulnerable to the effects of storm surge flooding, are where TRAC, a community-based, long-term disaster recovery organization, has focused its recovery efforts for the past 23 years.

The double sets of hurricanes that affected our parish in 2002, 2005 and 2008 delivered wind and water repeatedly to these bayou communities. Over 13,000 homes were impacted – homes  flooded with five to seven feet of water and swamp mud, wind ravaged roofs and exterior – not once but six times in a period of six years!

The shift from awareness to sustainable action has been years in the making. However, last decades’ disasters brought unprecedented funding streams from both private and government avenues. Since 2005, 1,037 elevation permits have been issued in Terrebonne Parish. The average elevation height is 10-12 feet costing $80.00 per square foot.  Sustainable replacement housing was developed and constructed, such as TRAC’s LA Lift House. (

However these projects were random, need-based, program-eligibility-based, and funded by the destruction of six hurricanes. Looking to the future, we, the collective community involved in coastal restoration, need to address simultaneously sustainable housing activities with funding, planning and partnerships if we are to preserve the culture and communities that live along our coastlines.

Case is contributing author to Disasters by Design: A Reassessment of Natural Hazards in the United States.  She also served as a panel member for the U.S. Senate’s 103rd Congress Appropriations Sub-Committee hearing on hurricane preparedness and evacuation. She currently serves on LAVOAD Board of Directors.

To contact:

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It's a Marathon, not a sprint: Small steps build lasting momentum for comprehensive restoration

September 23, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Restoration Projects, Science

By Estelle Robichaux, Restoration Project Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund and Gaby Garcia, Science Intern, Environmental Defense Fund

This post is part of a series on early restoration planning in Louisiana. Be sure to check out parts one and two for more information on previous plans.

By the early 1990s, Louisiana’s coastal land loss crisis had been studied and documented for more than two decades. Successful establishment of the state-level Office of Coastal Restoration and Management and the Wetlands Trust Fund in 1989 galvanized support and action for wetlands restoration at the federal-level as well. In 1990, Louisiana U.S. Senator John Breaux co-sponsored and helped pass the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and RestorationCWPPRA Act (CWPPRA), sometimes called the “Breaux Act.”

The Act was one of the first attempts to support a comprehensive approach to restoring Louisiana’s coastal wetlands by establishing a dependable, long-term funding stream for projects. A new federal interagency task force, made up of five federal agencies and the Louisiana state government, was also created by the Act to oversee coastal restoration activities, including the prioritization, planning and implementation of small- to medium-scale projects.

Three years after CWPPRA was enacted, in 1993, the Task Force published their Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Restoration Plan, which recommended changes in management of the lower Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. The plan focused specifically on increasing the sediment and freshwater supply to coastal wetlands to reestablish natural land-building processes.

The CWPPRA plan only has a 20-year time horizon, as opposed the 50-year perspective taken in other contemporary plans published by the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR), Louisiana State University or the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. Despite the shorter outlook of the CWPPRA plan, it relies on similar principles and strategies we see in these other plans. Namely, this plan calls for:

  • Shifting navigational use from the existing bird's foot delta to a new western delta in a neighboring estuary, possibly Breton Sound;
  • Multiple diversions to address land loss in Barataria Basin;
  • Reactivation of old distributary channels;
  • Seasonal changes in the Atchafalaya River’s flow distribution; and
  • Projects to facilitate hydrologic restoration, such as: Nourishing barrier island chains and Controlling tidal flows in large navigation channels.

Small scale tests, important success

Even before the passage of CWPPRA, the LDNR was implementing small-scale diversions by cutting crevasses into banks of the southernmost reach of the Mississippi River. Between 1986 and 1993, 20 crevasses were constructed with a mean discharge rate of less than 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Despite the lower flow rates, these crevasses created nearly 1,400 acres of emergent marsh during this period, an impressive amount of land considering the scale of these projects.

The early results of these experimental projects encouraged the prioritization of sediment diversions in the CWPPRA planning process, many of which have also performed well. The Channel Armor Gap Crevasse, for instance, was constructed in 1997 in one of the most rapidly subsiding areas of the delta. This crevasse created nearly 200 acres of land over 10 years and increased overall sediment elevation by more than three feet.

The West Bay Sediment Diversion, on the other hand, was constructed in 2003 and had formed little subaerial land despite the creation of two small spoil islands in the bay in 2009. Due to this lack of land building, it was considered a complete failure and was in the process of being deauthorized. But after the historic flood of 2011, which delivered large quantities of sediment to coastal Louisiana, dry land had emerged in West Bay by that fall. This combination of spoil islands and pulsing floodwaters has proven successful in building land here and may be translated elsewhere across the coast.


West Bay Sediment Diversion

Scaling up the vision for restoration

CWPPRA has played an important role in funding restoration projects, beyond diversions, across the coast. The program has also been critical in supporting long-term, large-scale undertakings, such as the Coast-wide Reference Monitoring System and planning efforts like the Barrier Island Shoreline Feasibility Study and Coast 2050.

The Barrier Island Shoreline Feasibility Study was the first large-scale feasibility study sponsored through CWPPRA. The technical analysis, completed in 1997, was designed to figure out the most effective barrier island configurations to protect inland areas from saltwater intrusion, wind and wave action, storm surge and other extreme events, such as oil spills. An estimate of the possible quantitative effects of different regional barrier island arrangements on Louisiana’s environmental and economic resources were produced through this work as well.

The scope of the study was limited to the shoreline from the Atchafalaya River east to the Mississippi River and provided two alternatives for restoration. These results ultimately informed the initial Barrier Shoreline Restoration studies conducted as part of the Army Corps’ Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, which in turn formed the basis for two of our priority projects, Barataria Pass to Sandy Point and Belle Pass to Caminada Pass Barrier Island Restoration.

While the CWPPRA Plan proposed some forward-thinking solutions at the basin-wide level to mimic natural processes, Coast 2050 took comprehensive planning even further. This initiative, finalized in 1998, was jointly developed by the Louisiana State Wetlands Authority and the CWPRRA Task Force and takes a regional perspective on restoration strategies for long-term ecosystem sustainability. The LCA Ecosystem Restoration Study was largely based on the recommendations and vision of Coast 2050, both of which played a significant part in shaping the 2012 Coastal Master Plan and the way we envision restoration in coastal Louisiana.

Be sure to check out our next post for more details on Coast 2050 and the Louisiana Coastal Area Study!

You can show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at

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New Poll Finds 94 Percent of Louisianians Will Consider a Candidate’s Coastal Platform When Voting

September 21, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Media Resources, Restoration Projects, Restore the Coast


New Poll Finds 94 Percent of Louisianians Will Consider a Candidate’s Coastal Platform When Voting 

Majority Want Next Governor to Protect Coastal Restoration Funding, Make Restoration a Priority

(NEW ORLEANS—Sept. 20, 2015) This fall, Louisianians will elect a new governor who will have a significant role in moving forward the state’s 50-year Coastal Master Plan. Nearly 94 percent indicate that a candidate’s commitment to protect and restore coastal Louisiana will be important to them when they vote, according to a new statewide poll of registered, likely voters released today.

Those surveyed also recognize the important role the next governor will have in protecting existing funding and securing additional funding for projects contained in the master plan. An overwhelming majority (90 percent) 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.

Across the board, the poll found tremendous statewide support for coastal restoration:

  • 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

The statewide poll sampled 917 registered, likely Louisiana voters and was conducted by Baton Rouge-based Southern Media & Opinion Research, Inc. between July 27 and July 30, 2015. The poll was funded by the National Audubon Society on behalf of the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition and has a margin of error of ± 4.0.


Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543,
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849,
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781,
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.767.4181,
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348,


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. Composed 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 New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Bold Recommendations & Early Citizen Support for Diversions as a Key to Coastal Restoration

September 16, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, coastal restoration, Diversions, Restoration Projects, Science

By Estelle Robichaux, Restoration Project Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund and Gaby Garcia, Science Intern, Environmental Defense Fund

This post is part of a series on early restoration planning in Louisiana. Be sure to check out part one for a look back to 1973.

In 1988, the Coalition to Restoration Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) released a plan titled Coastal Louisiana: Here today and gone tomorrow? The plan, which was a joint effort by stakeholders and scientists, focuses on the Mississippi River Delta region and is framed as a citizens program for protecting Louisiana’s environment,CRCL1 economy and heritage.

The plan provides nearly 20 recommendations, including a restoration action program, suggestions for how to finance the program, as well as specific institutional and legislative recommendations designed to galvanize restoration.

Among the most notable elements is the assertion that sediment diversions would be the most beneficial method of wetland restoration and that several of them should be constructed along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. This was also one of the first plans to advise against any new levee construction.

Many of the plan’s most significant propositions, those focused on restoration action, have yet to be realized, though the science behind sediment diversions is well developed and we continue to advocate for them as a sustainable restoration tool.

A bold but realistic plan of action

CRCL’s plan has two specific resource goals that are still strongly advocated for:

  1. To utilize freshwater and sediment diversions along the Mississippi River and Atchafalaya Rivers to sustain and restore coastal wetlands;
  2. To beneficially use dredged material from channel maintenance and existing spoil banks to backfill canals and nourish created wetlands and barrier islands

Restoring natural processes: Mississippi River water & sediment diversions

The Caernarvon and Davis Pond diversions were still being designed at the time this plan was published. Although there were expectations these structures would help control saltwater intrusion and reduce wetland loss, the plan underscores their limitations in active wetland restoration and land building. Despite the fact these diversions were designed for salinity and flood control, both areas have seen new land growth, though not at the scale or rate anticipated for sediment diversions.

The action program calls for the construction of a suite of freshwater and sediment diversions to restore hydrologic connections and halt wetland loss. The essence of many of these restoration ideas can be found in Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan (CMP). Some of the restoration actions proposed in the 1988 plan include:

  • One or two diversions from the Atchafalaya River into the Lake Verret Basin and Western Terrebonne marshes.
    • 2012 CMP: Two diversions from the Atchafalaya will increase freshwater and sediment flows into Terrebonne marshes from Bayou Penchant westward, including our of our coalition’s 19 priority projects, Increase Atchafalaya Flow into Terrebonne Marshes.
  • Restoration of Bayou Lafourche into a distributary of the Mississippi River, with a diversion into Timbalier Bay.
    • 2012 CMP: Small-scale freshwater diversion from the river into Bayou Lafourche.
  • Freshwater and sediment diversions, at Bayou Manchac and Blind River, to bring Mississippi River water into the degraded swamps south of Lake Maurepas.
    • 2012 CMP: Two freshwater diversions, at Blind River and Hope Canal, and hydrologic restoration of the Amite River to restore freshwater inputs to Lake Maurepas, including one of our priority projects, West Maurepas Diversions.
  • A large-scale sediment diversion of the Mississippi River below New Orleans into Barataria Basin and a navigation channel from the river into Breton Sound in the vicinity of Empire.
    • 2012 CMP: Two sediment diversions into Barataria Basin in the vicinity of Diamond and Myrtle Grove, Lower and Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversions (also two of our coalition’s priority projects).


Beneficial use of dredged material

In addition to the focus on restoring natural processes by using freshwater and sediment diversions, the plan has another major component that concentrate on restoration actions that would provide short-term benefits as well as some regulatory changes. This component focuses on using dredged sediments, taken from the bottoms of canals or by removing spoil banks, for restoration efforts.

It is recommended that all dredged material from channel maintenance work should be used for wetland creation and restoration. Sediment from spoil banks would be used to plug many of the abandoned canals along the coast, which would also provide hydrologic restoration of freshwater flow across the affected marshes.

Looking back, moving forward

As we review these early restoration plans, it becomes clear that using water and sediment from the Mississippi River to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands is not a new idea. Diversions have long been a key component in coastal restoration planning, though they are only one of the suite of tools we can use.

Restoration planning has spanned more than four decades in Louisiana, but it is only in the last two that consistent funding became available. Check out our next post for more on funded restoration programs in Louisiana.

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Katrina 10 – A Coastal View of Katrina Ten Years Later

August 26, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 19 Priority Projects, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, K10, Restoration Projects

This week marks a decade since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed into the Gulf Coast, killing nearly 2,000 people and devastating communities and coastal wetlands. Louisiana has come a long way in the past 10 years in restoring coastal areas that act as a natural buffer against storm surge – but there is still much work to do to achieve comprehensive restoration that can protect our communities from future storms. Below is a look at some of the damage caused by these storms – and information on moving forward to create a more resilient Louisiana coastline.


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Conservation Groups Commemorate Katrina Anniversary by Urging President to Prioritize Restoration

| Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Economy, Federal Policy, Hurricane Katrina, K10, Media Resources, Restoration Projects



Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781,
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543,
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849,
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.767.4181,
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348,

Conservation Groups Commemorate Katrina Anniversary by Urging President Obama to Prioritize Restoration 

Coastal Restoration Is Key to City’s Long-Term Resiliency, and Administration Has Opportunities to Advance Efforts

(NEW ORLEANS, LA—Aug. 26, 2015) As President Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush prepare to visit New Orleans to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this week, national and local conservation groups working together on Mississippi River Delta restorationEnvironmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana – issued the following joint statement:

“In the coming days, President Obama, two former U.S. Presidents and other leaders will honor the thousands of lives lost and bring well-deserved attention to the progress Louisiana and the Gulf Coast have made since the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina a decade ago.

“However, the job here is far from finished. Louisiana’s coastal wetlands – its first line of defense against future storms and a key driver for the health of the Gulf – continue to vanish at the stunning rate of one football field an hour. We look to President Obama to prioritize restoration of Louisiana’s disappearing coast for the remainder of his term and in doing so, leave a legacy of lasting resilience for the region.

“President Obama and leaders across government must maximize the impact of restoration efforts by protecting existing revenue streams for restoration, ensuring that the parties involved are working together effectively and prioritizing funding for large-scale ecosystem projects that will most significantly benefit the region. The pending BP settlement provides a tremendous immediate opportunity to do that, with billions of dollars that can  be dedicated now to the most critical ecosystem projects Gulf-wide, including substantial investments in the Mississippi River Delta.

“This is not just a Louisiana crisis, it’s a regional and national issue: Louisiana’s coast and its communities are powerful economic engines for shipping, energy, seafood and other industries that feed and fuel the nation and support millions of jobs across America.

“Katrina was the wake-up call. We certainly hope the Gulf Coast never has a repeat of that level of devastation. But unless meaningful coastal restoration moves forward and is funded for the long-term, we leave the people, wildlife and industries across the Louisiana coast at immense risk.  And because of the flow of funds resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the President and his Administration have the opportunity to act now, to turn these twin disasters into a positive, lasting and meaningful legacy in the Gulf. “



  • On July 2, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice and BP announced an agreement in principle on a global settlement that will resolve all remaining federal and state litigation relating to BP’s role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon offshore oil disaster. BP will pay a total of $18.732 billion to settle these claims with $7.332 billion designated for Natural Resource Damages (in addition to the $1 billion BP already paid for early restoration efforts), $5.5 billion in Clean Water Act penalties and $5.9 billion will cover economic damages to states and localities on the Gulf Coast. For more information on the agreement in principle, click here.
  • If the agreement in principle with BP becomes final, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, an independent federal entity established by the RESTORE Act, will have more than $1 billion dollars to dedicate to critical ecosystem restoration projects across the Gulf in the near-term.
  • Additionally, the Louisiana Coastal Area Program (LCA) represents another opportunity to construct large-scale ecosystem projects that increase coastal resilience. The Administration has requested U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) funding for the Louisiana Coastal Area Program (LCA) in previous years, and Fiscal Year 2017 is an opportune time to refocus on this critical program to maximize synergies with RESTORE Act funding and increase the overall impact of coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana.



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The History of Coastal Restoration in Louisiana: More than 40 years of planning

August 17, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Diversions, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, K10, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Restoration Projects, Science

By Estelle Robichaux, Restoration Project Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund and Gaby Garcia, Science Intern, Environmental Defense Fund

The damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in Louisiana’s bird’s foot delta nearly 10 years ago, brought regional and national attention to the state’s dramatic and ongoing coastal land loss crisis. But this crisis, as well as innovative and large-scale solutions to reverse wetland loss, had been studied, discussed and planned by scientists and decision-makers for decades.

In a series of blog posts, we will explore a few of Louisiana’s early restoration plans that, in many ways, laid the groundwork for the 2012 Coastal Master Plan.

More than 40 years of restoration ideas & planning

In 1973, Louisiana State University’s Center for Wetland Resources published a multi-volume report titled "Environmental Atlas and Multi-Use Management Plan for South-Central Louisiana. The report provides an overview of the Barataria and Terrebonne Basins and recommendations for natural resource management and restoration.

One of the most notable recommendations is initial discussion of a freshwater and land-building river diversion into Barataria Basin at Myrtle Grove, a project now known as the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion. A number of other natural resource management options are described in the plan, including the engineering of barrier islands, use of salt domes for water management, hydrologic restoration and regulation of development.

But not all the ideas have had as much staying power as the notion of harnessing the muddy Mississippi River to restore and maintain coastal wetlands.

Barrier islands in lakes?

Barrier islands are a coastal area’s first line of defense against storm surge, wave action and tides. These islands not only provide important habitat for many bird species, but they protect natural and built infrastructure upon which Louisiana’s economy depends.

This early management plan suggests constructing barrier islands along the shorelines of large lakes and bays, to help stop erosion in these areas. The authors state that these islands would create new, more diversified habitats as well as enhanced recreational opportunities. While these would be nice benefits to have, it would require building a highly engineered, unnatural feature into the landscape.

Not only is this line of thinking something that ecologists and natural resource managers have moved away from, but these projects would not have done anything to address the root causes of land loss. Therefore, they would have been extremely expensive to maintain due to a lack of natural sediment input and continued saltwater intrusion.

Building out of harm’s way

One of the concepts proposed in the report is the establishment of a network of “development corridors” throughout south-central Louisiana. These corridors would ensure limited development in vulnerable coastal areas while encouraging urbanization in areas that have firmer soils, good drainage and are reasonably safe from flooding. They would have been focused on natural levee ridges for land stability and have access to major and minor waterways for commerce.


Development Corridors

Interestingly, the areas within the proposed network of corridors are the economic and population centers that many Louisianans are most concerned about protecting today. Moreover, the areas outside of this network, where the authors specifically discourage further development, are those that we now recognize as some of the most vulnerable to increased damage from storms and the threat of sea level rise.

A diversion at Myrtle Grove

Certain solutions in the report still maintain a presence in restoration efforts today, specifically the proposal to construct a freshwater diversion at Myrtle Grove. Today, this project is called the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion and has evolved into a plan to pulse high-velocity river water, full of sediment, into deteriorating wetlands in the adjacent Barataria Basin. Unlike the project defined in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, the 1973 plan focuses on using fresh water to help establish a proper salinity gradient and combat saltwater intrusion and has other, more complex plans for diverted sediment.

myrtle grove 2As with today’s sediment diversions, the plan recommends that water flow from the Mississippi River be regulated by a control structure, through a diversion canal and then into the basin. The authors predict that the diverted water would abruptly loose velocity on the basin-side of the canal and deposit sediment in a “silt fan” near the canal mouth. While some sediment would continue out into adjacent wetlands, recreating more naturally occurring conditions, sediment from the stilling lagoon and silt fan would be removed by a small dredge and conveyed via pipeline for either construction or restoration purposes.

Evolution in natural resource management & restoration

Clearly, the idea behind what is now a crucial component to Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, diverting fresh water and sediment from the river to build new land, has come a long way from its humble beginnings. And although many of the proposed restoration and management solutions in the 1973 report did not make the cut, the problems they sought to address still threaten the livelihoods and communities of coastal Louisiana.

Check back as we continue to trace this history of restoration planning in Louisiana, which only emphasizes the great need for restoration action now!


Want to get involved? Take the PLEDGE now to vote in the upcoming elections and urge candidates to support the following restoration principles:

1. Be a voice for coastal restoration progress

2. Protect Existing and Secure Future Coastal Restoration Funding

3. Support the Coastal Master Plan

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