A Decade after Katrina, Groups Issue Recommendations for Community Protection, Restoration

August 11, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Community Resiliency, Media Resources, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, Reports, Restoration Projects, Science

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:              
Samantha Carter, National Wildlife Federation, 504.264.6831, carters@nwf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Raleigh Hoke, Gulf Restoration Network, 573.795.1916, raleigh@healthygulf.org

A Resilient, Sustainable New Orleans

A Decade after Katrina, Groups Issue Recommendations for Community Protection, Restoration

(New Orleans – August 11, 2015) To commemorate the upcoming 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a coalition of local community and conservation advocacy groups working to restore wetlands around the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) released a new report today.

The MRGO Must Go Coalition’s report – titled "10th  Anniversary of Katrina: Making New Orleans a Sustainable Delta City for the Next Century" – reflects on the progress that has been made since Hurricane Katrina and offers recommendations for ensuring the full protection and long-term resiliency of the Greater New Orleans communities, including implementing a “Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy” to protect coastal communities and wetland habitat.

In conjunction with the report release, members of the MRGO Must Go Coalition released the following statement today:

“Hurricane Katrina brought to the forefront the dire need to improve the resilience of New Orleans and its coastal neighbors. Katrina barreled onshore, churned through MRGO, and wreaked havoc in the Greater New Orleans area – showing us that levees alone are not enough to protect our people, natural resources and economy.

“Today, our coastline continues to disappear at the alarming rate of a football field every hour. As coastal wetlands wash away, with them go our natural defenses. Healthy wetlands and barrier islands serve as natural buffers, defending us against storms. Without slowing down this land loss crisis, we will continue to be vulnerable to storms, sea level rise and the growing risks of climate change.

“Ten years later, we have made great strides toward both restoration and protection. The closure of MRGO, the passing of the 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, the adoption of an Urban Water Plan and major upgrades to structural protections like levees and storm surge barriers are all true marks of progress for our region.

“However, the critical work to achieve protection and resiliency is really just beginning. We must continue to implement a Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy against storms – including community level planning and preparedness, urban storm water management, and protecting and restoring our coastal wetlands. We must build on the momentum of the last decade and continue to work to make New Orleans a model city for restoration, resiliency and sustainability.”

The MRGO Must Go Coalition was founded in 2006 in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Co­alition’s mission is to ensure that the wetlands affected by the MRGO are carefully restored in a timely manner. As of August 2015, the MRGO Must Go Coalition included 17 local and national environmental, social justice and community organizations.

Since its inception, the Coalition has served as a liaison between the communities in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes and the US Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies. The vast orga­nizational resources and expertise provided by the member organizations allow the Coalition to make informed policy and scientific recommendations on the restoration of the ecosystem impacted by the MRGO. More information can be found at www.MRGOmustGO.org.

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Central Wetlands

Central Wetlands

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Oysters 101

August 5, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Science, Seafood, Wildlife

By Shannon Hood, Environmental Defense Fund

Today is National Oyster Day, and we’re celebrating the holiday with a post about these useful and tasty bivalves and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s (UMCES) Horn Point Laboratory, which is growing them by the billions.

Previous posts have discussed the ecological and economic importance of oysters, so we won’t spend time on this today. In preparation for a series of other posts on the (r)evolutionary oyster industry, this post will explain their life history and introduce some of the research being conducted to ensure their continued success.

Oysters grow in large colonies that make up reefs. Mature oysters begin to spawn when the water temperature reaches 74-86 degrees Fahrenheit. When the first male or female spawns, others sense it as they filter the water, thus triggering more to spawn.

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Intertidal oyster reef

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Mature oysters spawning. Males and females can be differentiated based on the way they spawn.

The sperm and eggs join in the water column. The newly formed larvae will swim and feed for approximately two weeks until they reach what’s known as the pediveliger stage and are ready to attach to a substrate, a process known as “setting.” When an oyster sets, it secretes a glue-like substance and will not move from this location for the duration of its life. At this point, the oyster is known as a spat.

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Oyster spat on their host shell. These oysters will spend the duration of their lives on this host shell.

In the lab, this process is much the same as in the wild, however, it takes place in a controlled environment. In this environment, staff are able to control variables such as temperature, salinity and food availability – variables which have tremendous effects on oyster spawning and survival rates.

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Oyster life cycle

Aside from their work in growing oysters, the UMCES Horn Point Hatchery is a hotspot for research on all things oyster, including numerous graduate student researchers looking into how salinity affects setting and growth throughout oysters’ lives. Having a good understanding of optimal salinities and answering these questions, we remove yet another unknown in this industry, allowing greater understanding for how to ensure oysters are able to thrive now and into the future.

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UMCES graduate student examines larvae in preparation for experiment

Oyster populations and harvests are on the rise in the Chesapeake Bay for the first time in decades. In 2004, just 26,000 bushels were harvested from Maryland’s waters. In 2014, Chesapeake Bay harvesters reported their best year in three decades, bringing in 900,000 bushels from traditional on-bottom leases.

What’s the cause of this rebounding industry? It’s no miracle cure, but rather a host of federal and state management practices, a booming aquaculture industry, successful hatcheries that provide a reliable source of larvae and new science that is allowing these bivalves to thrive once again.

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An oyster aquaculture farm in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. Photo courtesy of True Chesapeake Oyster Company.

What does this mean for Louisiana? Our coastal waters boast some of the best conditions for oyster growth in the nation. Using funds from the Natural Resources Damages Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration Program, LSU Sea Grant is operating a new, state of the art hatchery on Grand Isle, a hatchery capable of producing up to one billion oyster larvae per year. This increased capacity can add significantly to the production potential of the state’s public and private oyster grounds. Additionally, off-bottom aquaculture and remote setting are looking more and more like realistic options to increase the industry’s success. Stay tuned for future posts about each of these new tools in the oyster industry’s toolbox.

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Vote Now: Which Coastal Restoration Slogan Should Appear on Dirty Coast Products?

July 30, 2015 | Posted by jhebert in Community Resiliency, Economics, Economy, Hurricanes, Job Creation, K10, Restoration Projects, Wildlife tourism

bird

Earlier this month, we put out a call for coastal restoration slogans that could be made into a design to be featured on Dirty Coast t-shirts and other products. We received an overwhelming response of more than 200 highly-creative submissions, making our job of selecting which to feature extremely difficult. So much so that we chose five finalists instead of the originally planned three.

They are: 

  1. The World Needs More Louisiana
  2. Greaux the Delta, Greaux Our Home
  3. Save the Boot
  4. Let the River Run Through It
  5. Keep LAND in Our Wetlands

So, we need YOU to help us decide. Vote here for your favorite slogan today through Thursday August 6.

The slogan receiving the most votes will be made into a design that Dirty Coast will place on t-shirts and other products sold in stores and online over the next year. A portion of sale proceeds will go to the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition to help us educate and engage people about the need for coastal restoration. The person who submits the winning slogan will receive a $200 gift card to Dirty Coast, second place will receive a $100 gift card, and third place a $50 card. All three finalists will receive a coastal tour led by experts in coastal restoration.

We’ll announce the winning slogan and unveil the design at a launch party and happy hour on August 20 at 6 p.m. at Dirty Coast’s new Marigny location (2121 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA).

We hope to see you there!

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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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Lower 9th Ward CSED Creates Environmental Learning & Research Center

July 15, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Community Resiliency, Economics, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, K10, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

By Rachel Pickens, Esq., Resiliency Manager for Coastal Outreach & Community Awareness, Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development

"River to the Bayou" is a phrase often spoken by members the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED). When CSED was created in December 2006 by Pam Dashiell and Charles Allen, they envisioned rebuilding a more resilient neighborhood, one that stretches from the Mississippi River to Bayou Bienvenue. Learning from Katrina, they realized that resilience is more than strengthening the built environment – it also requires restoring and protecting the surrounding natural environment.

There is a need for more education and awareness of the importance of our coastal wetlands in communities like the Lower 9th Ward, which have and continue to be disproportionately affected by strong storms. Residents must look out to the coast protect what's in the neighborhood, and in the Lower 9th Ward, that means reconnecting people with the river and the bayou.

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Wetland Education Center site plan

To address this need, CSED is creating a Wetland Education Center for residents to learn and interact with the water that surrounds the neighborhood. The site will run along Florida Ave, between Caffin Ave. and Lamanche St., across the street is the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle and platform. It is composed of four lots, which CSED purchased from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority in 2013. The first phase of the project, an outdoor classroom, was constructed through a partnership with Tulane's School of Architecture during the 2015 spring semester.

The outdoor classroom includes a bioswale, where the sloped ground collects water that would otherwise cause flooding in the adjoining street. The goal is to retain 100% of all rainwater that falls on the site. Plants in the bioswale include spider lilies, thalias, irises, and soft rush, all plants that live well in wet and boggy soils.

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Outdoor classroom bioswale.

The bioswale is divided into three zones, demarcated by oyster benches and oyster trails. The oysters serve as "check dams", which slow down the rainwater and prevent it from eroding the bioswale. The three zones are a visual timeline of the neighboring Bayou Bienvenue. The zone by the entrance, with the diversity of native plants, represents the past, before Bayou Bienvenue was destroyed by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). The middle zone represents the current state of the bayou, sparse with only a few switch grasses. The third zone, representing the future, remains unfinished and will be a site for additional plantings.

The site also includes two shaded structures. The first, an outdoor classroom and a second, to be used for kayak storage. Both structures are composed of steel columns and shade cloth that provides 90% UV protection. In front of the structures are rows of silver shower Aztec and purple foundation grass which will help prevent erosion. The outdoor class room also includes an orchard now growing grapefruit, orange, satsuma, kumquat, fig and apple trees, along with a magnolia tree. Program coordinator, Kathy Muse started a butterfly garden in the back part of the site several years ago.

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Shaded outdoor classroom and kayak storage.

Phase 2 of Wetland Education Center will include the placement of a modular classroom. Designed by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, in partnership with the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the classroom features sustainable building materials and design elements.  It was showcased at the 2014 USGBC Green Build, held in New Orleans. The classroom, which was donated to CSED, will be used as a K-12 environmental education center and research space.

While the Wetland Education Center is still a work in progress, it is currently open to the community and it will be a gathering and learning site for wetland awareness and water management. CSED believes that the first step towards resiliency is education and with the help of the Wetland Education Center, the Lower 9th Ward will become more resilient than ever.

CSED and other environmental groups will be holding a ribbon cutting ceremony for the first phase of the project on August 11th at 10am, following a press event at the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle Platform to discuss the state of our coast 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. For more information on this event, contact Samantha Carter at carterS@nwf.org.

For more information on CSED and how you can get involved, click here.

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