Archive for Diversions


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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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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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).

CRCL2

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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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.

developmentcorridors

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

Find out more at RestoretheCoast.org.

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Ten Years after Katrina, What the BP Settlement Means for Louisiana Restoration

July 16, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 19 Priority Projects, 5 Years Later, BP Oil Disaster, Community Resiliency, Diversions, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, K10, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act, Science

By Steve Cochran, Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program, Environmental Defense Fund

Ten years ago, just after Hurricane Katrina, I was asked to talk to Environmental Defense Fund’s board about the place where I grew up, the New Orleans area that had been hit so hard.

I remember two things about that discussion. One was my voice breaking unexpectedly (and embarrassingly) as we talked through pictures of the Katrina aftermath and came across places I intimately knew.

As an adult, I had developed a love/hate relationship with my home – loving the beauty, the people, the community and the culture, but frustrated by what I saw as the general tolerance of mediocrity and corrupt politics that limited its possibilities. That frustration had pushed the love down, and I had moved away. But there it was again. Sometimes you don’t know how much you care.

The second thing I remember was saying that the Katrina response was a deep test of our governments – local, state and national. As we know now, in that moment, it was a test they failed. But fast forward to July 2, 2015, the day a global settlement was announced in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill case. It was a day when governments rose to the occasion. The result was literally the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history.

The BP Settlement and Louisiana Coastal Restoration

Under the agreement, Louisiana will receive more than a third of the money – $6.8 billion of the $18.7 billion, and $5.8 billion of that is specifically targeted to restoration. The overall restoration total for Louisiana will likely be just under $8 billion, including early restoration dollars and criminal settlements.

These are significant resources at a critical time. Land loss across the coast of Louisiana, exacerbated by the spill, continues at a fearful rate. But we are making progress against that loss, and with the solid state commitment that now exists, and effective plans in place, these resources will allow us to battle back in earnest, with a clear-eyed view toward success.

In particular, the state plans to re-engage the enormous power of the Mississippi River and its sediment through a series of sediment diversions – using the natural land-building capacity of the river by reconnecting it to the delta it originally built. This science-based, innovative approach is the critical piece in our ability to provide solutions at a scale that can match the challenges in the Mississippi River Delta – now the largest restoration effort under way in the world.

Rebuilding Our Coast to Protect Our Communities

About a month after the spill, I was allowed to sit in on a tribal council of the indigenous United Houma Nation. As the oil continued to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, which it would do for another two months, I listened and watched as a man described, through a quiet voice and uncontrolled tears, how he had always looked to the waters of the Gulf and drawn confidence, knowing he could always provide for his family by accepting its gifts. But now all he could feel was fundamental fear.

Money can’t replace that kind of loss any more than it can bring back the 11 loved ones who lost their lives in the accident.

But we must do what we can – and in that context, the BP settlement is a tremendous step forward, because we can restore the Mississippi River Delta, so it can protect this area in the future.

Details matter, of course, and details remain to be decided as the Agreement in Principle is turned into a consent decree. We need to remain involved and vigilant. But it does seem clear that this agreement combines avoiding years of litigation with levels of funding that can truly make a difference.

With these resources, we can go to work to make sure that the largest environmental settlement in our nation’s history also becomes the most meaningful settlement in a place that, well, I love.

 

 

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In Ads Across State, Leading Wildlife & Fisheries Biologists Endorse Sediment Diversions

May 3, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Community Resiliency, Diversions, Restoration Projects, Science

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

Twenty-seven leading wildlife and fisheries biologists and other wetlands professionals are urging Louisiana’s citizens to support the construction of sediment diversions to restore marshes vital for protecting Louisiana’s diminishing coast and the people and wildlife it supports.

In full-page ads that will begin appearing in Louisiana media, including the state’s largest newspapers, this Sunday, May 3, the experts write:

“Louisiana urgently needs to restore a better balance between wetland building and wetland loss, between freshwater intrusion and saltwater intrusion, and between the river and the sea so that Louisiana’s wildlife, fish, culture, communities and economy will benefit for generations.”

These wildlife and fisheries biologists and wetlands experts who signed onto the letter have a connection to Louisiana’s coast and want to see it restored: “Like many of you, the signers of this letter know all too well what is at stake. We are wetland professionals who share a passion for Louisiana’s natural places and the extraordinary abundance of fish and wildlife it sustains…In addition to our professional work, we hunt, fish and spend much of our leisure time enjoying our state’s coastal wildlife and fisheries. We watch the wetlands convert to shallow water every day, every year. No one wants to save Louisiana’s coastal fish and wildlife more than we do.”

“We call on Louisiana to continue moving forward with the construction of large-scale wetland-building diversions,” the experts write. “We call on federal agencies to support Louisiana’s efforts by streamlining project implementation. We call on the citizens of Louisiana to insist that our leaders hold to the plan and move quickly.”

Despite the ability of sediment diversions to anchor and sustain the overall coastal restoration system for years to come, opposition exists in limited pockets. Last week, the St. Bernard Parish Council adopted a resolution opposing the use of state funding for four proposed sediment diversion projects, and some commercial fisherman say the diversions would push their saltwater fishing areas further from the coast. The scientists acknowledge this, noting, “Wetland-building diversions will not destroy fisheries but instead will immediately push them farther from some parts of the coast” and recommend objective policies to assist affected fisherman.

“We shouldn’t manage coastal wetlands only for our generation,” the scientists write in their letter, saying that the continuing loss of wetlands will rob future generations of jobs, Louisiana’s unique culture and wildlife habitat.

They also note that “places on our coast continue to thrive . . . where the river is allowed to work its magic.”

The paid advertisements will appear in the following publications in the coming weeks: The Advocate, The Plaquemines Gazette, The St. Bernard Voice, The Times-Picayune, The Houma Courier, Coastal Angler and Louisiana Sportsman.

You can read their letter in full below:

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Louisiana

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Bayou Bonjour: Caernarvon Diversion Builds Land and Gives Birth to New Bayou

March 26, 2015 | Posted by jhebert in Diversions, Restoration Projects, Science, Videos

Straddling the border of Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes in Southeastern Louisiana is the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion built by the Army Corps of Engineers and operated since 1992 to balance water salinity by funneling river water into coastal marshes.

Lately, the diversion has had indirect effects that are raising eyebrows among scientists and those seeking to find solutions to address the crisis of Louisiana’s disappearing coast. The Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion is creating land at a rapid pace by delivering nutrient-rich river fresh water to bayous that have been starved of sediment and are eroding at an alarming rate.

In a new video, Coordinator of Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation’s Coastal Sustainability Program Dr. John Lopez outlines how approximately 1,000 acres of wetlands have been developed from the Caernarvon Diversion to create a new delta and within it a new bayou known as Bayou Bonjour. The new bayou is named in contrast to the book "Bayou Farewell," foretelling of the tragic loss of our wetlands and bayous. “Caernarvon was not designed or operated to build land,” Lopez notes, yet “Big Mar Pond has been filling up over the last twenty years due to sediment from Caernarvon.” How did this happen? Lopez explains how the diversion has provided an “ideal recipe for building a delta”: (river freshwater + sediments + nutrients = land growth).

Big Mar is located directly behind Braithwaite Park, a Plaquemines Parish community housed outside the federal levee system where devastation from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Isaac occurred. Building land in Big Mar could provide a much-needed buffer for this community and an example for how to protect others like it. “As long as Caernarvon Diversion is flowing, this waterway and others like it will develop and this gives us hope in Louisiana that we can rebuild our coast,” says Lopez. In addition, recently planted cypress trees are thriving and will provide additional environmental and flood protection benefit as a new "line of defense."

Take a tour of Bayou Bonjour:

Want to learn more about the Caernarvon Diversion and other solutions for restoring the Mississippi River Delta? Visit mississippiriverdelta.org, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. You can also share the video with your network using the following tweet:

  • Introducing Bayou Bonjour: Caernarvon Diversion has created an “ideal recipe for building a delta” #RestoreOurCoast http://youtu.be/5TExITZM2Wg
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