FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, email@example.com
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, email@example.com
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, firstname.lastname@example.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, email@example.com
Funding for Louisiana Coastal Area Program Included in Omnibus Spending Bill
Money Will Help Advance Critical Coastal Restoration Projects
(WASHINGTON—Dec. 17, 2015) Yesterday, the U.S. Congress unveiled a year-end spending bill that includes more than $10 million in funding for the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Program. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 is expected to be approved in coming days by the full Congress. This funding includes $10 million for LCA Beneficial Use of Dredged Materials (BUD Mat) Construction and $50,000 for LCA General Investigations and reflects a request in the President’s FY 16 budget. These levels were previously included in both U.S. House and U.S. Senate versions of FY 16 Energy and Water Appropriations bills.
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:
“We commend Congressional leaders and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for including critical funding for the Louisiana Coastal Area Program in this year-end spending bill. LCA projects will help restore critical wetlands throughout the Mississippi River Delta, which will protect Louisiana’s vital coastal infrastructure and natural resources. We would especially like to thank the Louisiana Congressional delegation for their bipartisan efforts and dedication to Louisiana’s coast.
“The Mississippi River Delta is home to more than 2 million people and countless wildlife and birds, and is an economic engine for the entire nation, providing billions of dollars in economic activity. Ten years after Hurricane Katrina and five years after the Gulf oil disaster, this funding provides a critical opportunity to advance much-needed coastal restoration. We are gratified by the commitment to restoration the Obama Administration and Congress have shown in advancing the restoration program in fiscal year 2016, and we look forward to continued progress in the years ahead.
“The state of Louisiana has included many LCA projects in its 2012 Coastal Master Plan, and this funding is an important down payment in the effort to move that important suite of projects forward along the path to completion. Our organizations look forward to working with the state of Louisiana and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on seeing these Louisiana Coastal Area Program projects through from engineering and design to implementation.”
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.
By Elizabeth Weiner, Senior Policy Manager, Environmental Defense Fund
Last week, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council approved its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) of projects and programs to fund with civil penalties available from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Transocean settlement. This is an important step forward for the entire Gulf Coast that is still recovering from the spill. In particular for the Mississippi River Delta, the FPL demonstrates both the state of Louisiana’s commitment to funding Coastal Master Plan projects with RESTORE dollars and progress in implementing the master plan.
Louisiana submitted five project proposals, all of which are projects from the Coastal Master Plan. While these projects are still in planning phases, they represent critical near-term opportunities to keep the Mississippi River Delta on its path to recovery and sustainability. The Louisiana master plan projects receiving funding include:
- Golden Triangle Marsh Creation Project ($4.3 million; planning)
- Mississippi River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp Project ($14.2 million; planning)
- Biloxi Marsh Living Shoreline Project ($3.2 million; planning)
- West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment and Stabilization Project ($7.3 million; planning)
- Lowermost Mississippi River Management Program ($9.3 million; planning)
Two additional projects, Jean Lafitte Canal Backfilling ($8.7 million; implementation) and Bayou Dularge Ridge, Marsh and Hydrologic Restoration ($5.2 million; planning), are also located in Louisiana and were included in the Council’s FPL. These two projects, submitted for funding by federal members of the RESTORE Council, are complementary to and consistent with the Coastal Master Plan and will directly benefit coastal Louisiana.
The finalization of this FPL comes in follow-up to positive progress made through other Gulf oil spill funding streams – the National Fish and Wildlife Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, created by criminal plea agreements with multiple responsible parties, and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDA) process.
Now that BP’s settlement of civil penalties and responsibilities under NRDA is pending, both the RESTORE Council and the NRDA Trustee Council will be able to make even more progress, with an eye toward large-scale restoration. For the RESTORE Council, the next step will be an update to its Initial Comprehensive Plan to improve decision-making, project selection, and to consider the projects planned and funded through the other oil spill funding streams. For the NRDA Trustees, their next step will be considering public comments and finalizing the draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan.
The National Audubon Society invites birdwatchers to participate in the longest-running citizen science survey, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). From December 14 through January 5, birders and nature enthusiasts in Louisiana will take part in this tradition, many rising before dawn to participate.
“Louisiana is home to millions of birds each winter, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds. Understanding how the populations of these birds are changing is revealed through CBC efforts, which is critical for knowing how to best ensure their survival,” says Dr. Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Louisiana.
Each year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count mobilizes over 72,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,400 locations across the Western Hemisphere. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count utilizes the power of volunteers to track the health of bird populations at a scale that scientists could never accomplish alone. Data compiled in Louisiana will record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area, contributing to a vast citizen science network that continues a tradition stretching back more than 100 years.
To date over 200 peer-reviewed articles have resulted from analysis done with Christmas Bird Count data. Bird-related citizen science efforts are also critical to understand how birds are responding to a changing climate. This documentation is what enabled Audubon scientists to discover that 314 species of North American birds are threatened by global warming as reported in Audubon’s groundbreaking Birds and Climate Change Study. The tradition of counting birds combined with modern technology and mapping is enabling researchers to make discoveries that were not possible in earlier decades.
In addition to counting up some of our more common birds, Louisiana CBC participants also look for vagrants – birds that normally spend the winter elsewhere, but made a wrong turn somewhere along the way. Last winter, Louisiana CBC volunteers found a total 254 species of birds, including amazing vagrants like Lucy’s Warbler, Ferrugineous Hawk, and Brown Boobies. What unusual birds will be found this winter?
Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun, nationwide citizen science project, which provides ornithologists with a crucial snapshot of our native bird populations during the winter months. Each individual count is performed in a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles. At least ten volunteers, including a compiler to coordinate the process, count in each circle. The volunteers break up into small parties and follow assigned routes, counting every bird they see. In most count circles, some people also watch feeders instead of following routes.
Want to get involved?
- To find a count near you visit christmasbirdcount.org.
- Counts are open to birders of all skill levels and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to chip in.
- There is no fee to participate and the quarterly report, American Birds, is available online.