Archive for Restoration Projects


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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Louisiana Releases Draft Annual Plan for Coastal Restoration and Protection

January 12, 2016 | Posted by jhebert in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Diversions, Restoration Projects, State Legislature

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org

Louisiana Releases Draft Annual Plan for Coastal Restoration and Protection
Plan Includes CPRA’s Recommendations for Two Sediment Diversions

(BATON ROUGE, La. – January 12, 2016) Last week, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) released its draft Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Annual Plan for Integrated Ecosystem Restoration and Hurricane Protection in Coastal Louisiana. This year’s Annual Plan expands on last fall’s recommendation by CPRA to advance two sediment diversion projects at Mid Barataria and Mid Breton.

CPRA is required by the state legislature to produce an Annual Plan that reports on the progress of projects as well as project funding schedules and budgets. The agency will host a series of three public meetings this week in Lake Charles, New Orleans and Thibodaux and is accepting comments on the draft plan.

National and local conservation groups working together on Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana – released the following statement:

“The drafting of the Annual Plan is a vital part of the restoration process in Louisiana. It gives CPRA the opportunity to take inventory of projects in the Coastal Master Plan, project real dollars to continue progress and communicate directly with the public on the status and potential futures of specific projects.

“We are pleased to see the most current and best-available science from the Coastal Master Plan process continue to drive prioritization and planning by CPRA. As the Annual Plan says, the Mid Barataria and Mid Breton sediment diversions must continue to move forward into engineering and design, and eventually, implementation.

“Sediment diversions like these provide the best opportunity to restore our coast over time. They use the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to help rebuild our collapsing delta – the power, sediment and water from the Mississippi River itself. Our disappearing land can only survive if we allow the river that built it to rebuild and sustain it. Ensuring these diversions move forward in an expedited manner should be of utmost importance to us all.

“We look forward to continuing to work alongside CPRA, other organizations and residents all along the coast to get diversions up and running.”

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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 MississippiRiverDelta.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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$52.2 million in oil spill funds approved for Louisiana coastal restoration

December 15, 2015 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, coastal restoration, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

By Elizabeth Weiner, Senior Policy Manager, Environmental Defense Fund

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Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce and Chair of the RESTORE Council. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

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:

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 RESTORE Council meeting in Biloxi, Miss. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

The RESTORE Council meeting in Biloxi, Miss. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

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.

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RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

December 9, 2015 | Posted by jhebert in BP Oil Disaster, Federal Policy, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Media Resources, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

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.”

Media Contact:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, johnlopez@saveourlake.org

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New sediment counter shows amount of uncaptured sediment passing through LA every second

December 2, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Restoration Projects, Science

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.

sediment counter

Photo: CPRA

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.

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2015 Brings Momentum for the Louisiana Coast

November 25, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Restoration Projects, Restore the Coast

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 CouncilRestore Map 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

Ad - Protect our coastal master plan 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.

90Across the board, the poll found tremendous statewide support for coastal restoration:

  1. 85 percent believe restoration of coastal Louisiana should be a high priority for the new governor
  2. 95 percent want the new governor to commit to move quickly and get started building coastal restoration projects
  3. 78 percent believe protecting and restoring coastal Louisiana is as important as other issues facing the state
  4. 97 percent say Louisiana’s coastal areas and wetlands are important to them personally
  5. 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.

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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.

Happy Thanksgiving, from all of us at the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition!

happy thanksgiving

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Coast 2050's Lasting Impacts on Coastal Restoration

November 5, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Restoration Projects, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

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 our previous posts: part one, part two and part three.

Since the early 1990's, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Preservation, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) has been providing a steady funding stream for Louisiana coastal restoration, averaging about $45 million per year. Yet despite this funding commitment, at the time, there was still a void in actionable, systematic restoration planning for coastal Louisiana.

Seeing a need, the Louisiana State Wetlands Authority and the CWPRRA Task Force collaborated to develop Coast 2050, a strategic plan for creating an enduring and sustainable Louisiana coast. Approved in 1998, the plan was a consensus-based, stakeholder-informed initiative that received explicit support from all 20 coastal parishes.

Louisiana coastal parishes

Louisiana's coastal parishes

This comprehensive plan takes a regional perspective on restoration, based on three strategic goals:

  • To create and sustain marsh by accumulating sediment and plant matter;
  • To maintain habitat diversity by varying salinities and protecting key land forms; and
  • To maintain ecosystem connections so there is exchange of energy, plants, and animals.

By focusing on these guiding principles, the participants in this collaborative effort were able to generate a plan that relies on a variety of restoration tools – from shoreline protection and marsh creation to the reintroduction of fresh water and sediment to deteriorating wetlands.

From Coast 2050 to LCA Study

The Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study was an outgrowth of Coast 2050 that took the plan’s restoration concepts and strategies and formulated them into more specific project ideas that could be analyzed and studied.

The overall goal of the LCA study was to reverse the trend of coastal ecosystem degradation, with a specific focus on using restoration strategies that would reintroduce historic flows of river water, nutrients and sediment to the coastal wetlands.

The results of the study, which were finalized and published in 2004, identify 15 projects categorized as ‘critical near-term features.’ This means that the project or action addresses essential ecological needs of coastal Louisiana in areas where delaying action would result in greater future restoration costs and possibly a loss of opportunity for restoration.

Although the approved LCA plan and these 15 critical near-term projects were included in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act, no funds were actually appropriated for this work. Meaning that while the U.S. Congress authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to work on these coastal restoration projects, they did not give them any money to do it.

Coast 2050’s Lasting Impacts

Many of the recommended actions and priorities advanced in Coast 2050 have had a lasting imprint on restoration planning in Louisiana, by setting the stage for project ideas that became a part of the LCA Ecosystem Restoration Study and, eventually, the 2012 Coastal Master Plan.

Coast2050 LCA projects w arrows ER

Coast 2050, Louisiana Coastal Area and 2012 Coastal Master Plan projects (click to enlarge)

Despite the lack of funds and forward momentum in implementing the LCA plan over the past decade, these projects and ideas – that will have a great benefit to the ecosystem and are strongly rooted in science – are finally advancing through the state’s Coastal Master Plan and oil spill-related funding.

Many of these are priority projects for the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, because they are based in sound science, have been planned and studied for a long time and are key to comprehensive and sustainable coastal restoration. While implementation of some of these projects has been slow, we expect that many of them will see greater progress now that the results of the basin-wide modeling effort have been announced, CPRA’s recent recommendation to move forward the Mid Barataria and Mid Breton sediment diversions into engineering and design, and as more funding becomes available through the pending BP settlement.

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Groups Pleased As Key Sediment Diversions Advance, Coastal Restoration Funds Protected

October 21, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), Media Resources, Meetings/Events, Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, Science

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.767.4181, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org

Groups Pleased As Key Sediment Diversions Advance, Coastal Restoration Funds Protected

CPRA Board Moves Forward on Two Diversion Projects, Proposes Using GOMESA Funds for Highway Elevation

(October 21, 2015 – Baton Rouge) Today, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) board announced two major developments. First, 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, collapsing wetlands and rebuild land over time. Secondly, the CPRA board voted to approve a new proposal to use Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) money, rather than funds previously committed to projects in the state’s Coastal Master Plan, for elevating Louisiana Highway 1.

The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition – which includes Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation – issued the following statement in response:

“We are pleased to see CPRA leverage the most current and best-available science to move forward the Mid Barataria and Mid Breton sediment diversions projects into engineering and design. 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. We will continue to pursue and understand the science behind diversions, but there is no scientific uncertainty about our physical reality – we live in a landscape built by the river, disappearing because we have cut the delta off from the river.

“This announcement is an important step toward getting sediment diversions up and running. We’re in a race against the clock and forces of nature. We need to move forward at full speed while ensuring efficiency and transparency in the steps ahead.

“Louisiana Highway 1 is a critical corridor for our state and national economic vitality. We believe that the elevation of Highway 1 is eligible for GOMESA funding, and we join with the LA1 Coalition in pursuit of adequate funding for this and other coastal infrastructure projects. We support the development of a prioritization system that would allow for up to 10 percent of GOMESA revenues to be spent on coastal infrastructure projects, with a focus on projects that are directly impacted by coastal wetland loss. This system should reflect the significant role of coastal infrastructure projects such as Highway 1, which contribute to energy security, community resiliency, and the national, state and local economy. This is a long-standing and well-understood aspect of GOMESA and does not veer from any prior commitments to restoration.

“We are gratified that the state has made the right decision in considering an appropriate funding source for this coastal infrastructure improvement project and has not moved forward with using oil spill funds it previously committed to the Coastal Master Plan.”

A recent poll found tremendous statewide support for coastal restoration:

  • 94 percent indicate that a gubernatorial candidate’s commitment to protect and restore coastal Louisiana will be important to them when they vote.
  • 90 percent want the next governor to ensure funds currently dedicated to coastal restoration are not spent on anything but coastal restoration.
  • 87 percent want the next governor to work to identify and secure 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.
  • Two-thirds (66 percent) indicate support for river diversions to build new land in Louisiana.

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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 MississippiRiverDelta.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.

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 RestoretheCoast.org

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