EDF Voices: Amid dramatic sea level rise, nature itself can provide a much-needed solution

April 8, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in Climate, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency

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

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Even if we manage to reach our goals for reducing greenhouse gases, the world will experience a dramatic sea level rise by 2100 – the latest study estimates by as much as six feet.

With a water level that much higher than it is today, major coastal cities such as Boston, New York and Miami are sure to be below sea level. So the key question now is, how do we adapt to climate change effects we can no longer avoid?

A single solution to rising oceans won’t fix the problem, but there is a “soft option” that can help protect our coasts when complemented with other measures.

Living shorelines have role to play

Sea level rise means entire regions, not just beachfront towns, will have to adapt.

With coastal areas accounting for 42 percent of America’s economic output, we must make effective climate change and sea level-rise adaptation strategies a priority today.

Soft options, sometimes called living shorelines or natural infrastructure, include features such as sand dunes, barrier islands and maritime forests. They help lessen storm surge and flooding while also providing habitat, water filtration and beautiful places we can all enjoy.

These sand dunes were built to protect homes in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

These and other natural infrastructure measures can be used alone or to complement and enhance hard infrastructure such as levees and floodwalls to create multiple lines of defense.

But natural infrastructure measures also have a distinct advantage over hardened approaches: They can grow.

Beaches, dunes, wetlands, mangroves and oyster reefs can keep pace with sea level rise and provide critical buffers – a first line of defense against waves and floods.

Coastal communities taking action

Communities on every coast are now beginning to think about changes in zoning and building standards to protect themselves from flooding, while also investigating how to restore natural defenses. Such redundant measures can improve their resiliency – and also give them environmental and economic benefits that improve quality of life.

Seabrook, New Hampshire, for example, has a plan to build and strengthen its dunes, and allow them to continue to grow, to protect coastal properties.

Louisiana is also restoring its wetlands, cypress swamps and barrier islands as part of its strategy to cope with sea level rise and storm disasters. And across Hampton Roads, Virginia, living shorelines are sprouting up as alternatives to bulkheads to combat erosion and improve Chesapeake Bay water quality.

Such efforts are taking off in other countries, too. Communities in across Southeast Asia, for example, are now replanting mangroves to reduce impacts from tsunamis and storm surges.

Live with water, fight it, or retreat?

Scientists are expecting sea levels to rise faster and higher than previously predicted. So the truth is, we’ll have to soon make choices about where, when and how we adapt to live with water, defend our coasts, and retreat.

Fortunately, restoring coastal ecosystems can fit nicely with these strategies to provide human communities with benefits not only on stormy days, but year-round.

View the original post on EDF blog.

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Plaquemines Parish Voices of Restoration: Wine for the Wetlands 2016

April 7, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in coastal restoration, Meetings/Events

By Matt Phillips, Outreach Coordinator, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition

On Thursday, March 24th, the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition hosted its second annual Wine for Wetlands happy hour. The event is an important part of our Coalition’s work in Plaquemines Parish and provides an opportunity for elected parish officials, community leaders and local coastal restoration advocates to celebrate coastal restoration successes and explore strategies for the future.

Attendees gathered at Foster Creppel’s Woodland Plantation, just north of West Pointe-a-la-Hache. A recent storm had raised the Mississippi River to nearly 15 feet, and the river was swollen as it rushed past the levee behind Creppel’s. More than water flowed, though. Sediment – sands, silts, muds and clays – which built the Louisiana delta, flooded past the plantation as well. As attendees gathered, more than 10,000 tons of sediment raced by them on its way to the Gulf. Much of this sediment would eventually flow off the continental shelf, and the sediment-starved wetlands around Creppel’s would continue to erode.

Richie Blink, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition Plaquemines Parish Community Outreach Coordinator

Richie Blink, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition Plaquemines Parish Community Outreach Coordinator

This fact was not lost on Albertine Kimble, Plaquemines Parish native and former Coastal Program Manager, who spoke about the river’s ability to rebuild land and the parish’s urgent need to harness that power. As manager of the parish’s Coastal Program, Kimble selected restoration projects and guided them through completion. As much as any coastal expert in Louisiana, she knows that the river can rebuild land that Plaquemines has lost and sustain existing wetlands. Sediment diversions are a key method for using the Mississippi as a tool for restoration. Diversions redirect sediment from the river to the wetlands outside the levees, allowing the river to nourish the delta it built centuries ago. As Kimble noted, the sediment-laden river rushing by, this is how Plaquemines was built, and this is how it can be sustained.

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Richie Blink discussing land loss effects on fisheries with local sportsmen.

As the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan notes, no single project type, tool or strategy will restore and protect Louisiana’s coast. Sandy Sanders, Executive Director of the Plaquemines Port, advocated another type of project that will rebuild the wetlands and buffer Plaquemines from the Gulf’s waters. Dredging sediment from the bottom of the river is necessary for keeping the river navigable. Instead of dumping that sediment into the Gulf, Sanders noted, we should be using that land to rebuild marshes outside of the levee system. Leaning on his experience in the Plaquemines business community, Sanders discussed how coastal restoration projects are both environmentally and economically critical for coastal Louisiana and the nation. Restoring the Louisiana coast increases the resiliency of refineries and ports in Plaquemines, which are an economic boon to the local, national and global economies. As Sanders mentioned, gas prices jumped after Hurricane Katrina. Refineries and ports across South Louisiana had sustained damage, and the nation felt those effects. Coastal restoration ties environmental needs to economic benefits, and using dredged material from the Mississippi River advances both of these goals.

Sandy Sanders, Executive Director of the Plaquemines Port speaking at Wine for the Wetlands.

Sandy Sanders, Executive Director of the Plaquemines Port speaking at Wine for the Wetlands.

While constructing these restoration projects is the first step, managing them correctly will be critical. Earl Armstrong, a Plaquemines Parish landowner and long-time resident, spoke to the audience about adaptive management, drawing on his experience fighting for the West Bay sediment diversion. The Army Corps of Engineers sought to close the diversion in 2011 once it started contributing to shoaling in an anchorage for ships near the mouth of the river, which hindered navigation. Armstrong recognized the problem and recommended that, instead of closure, the diversion needed a new management scheme. The Corps built a barrier that would capture the sediment more quickly, building land and solving the navigation issues that had arisen. Because of Armstrong’s efforts, the West Bay diversion is functioning as it should, and it is building new land.

Earl Armstrong speaking at Wine for the Wetlands

Earl Armstrong speaking at Wine for the Wetlands

New land built through West Bay diversion via lacoast.gov.

West Bay diversion working to build and sustain land. photo via lacoast.gov.

Coastal restoration events in Louisiana usually display an array of maps with dire projections about land loss and sea level rise. Most of coastal Louisiana is colored red to indicate where land loss will be most significant. Plaquemines Parish is red from New Orleans to the Gulf. At Wine for the Wetlands, Richie Blink, the Coalition’s Plaquemines Parish Community Outreach Coordinator, looked to veer away from this message. “I’m tired of the red map,” he said. “I want to show the positive story.” He hoped to demonstrate what restoration looks like and what it can do for the parish. In a corner of the room, in stark contrast to the typical land loss maps, stood two images of new land built by sediment diversions.

These photographs presented a message of hope: that coastal Louisiana’s future is more complicated than we might think.

Richie Blink showing new land built by sediment diversions.

Richie Blink showing new land built by sediment diversions.

Matt Phillips is the Coordinator for the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition’s Outreach Team. He works with organizers around Louisiana on improving the coalition’s community engagement. A native of New York City, Matt graduated from Oberlin College with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and moved to Louisiana shortly after to work on and learn about the state’s coastal land loss. He lives in New Orleans.

 

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Conservation Groups Praise Governor Edwards’ Executive Order on Coastal Master Plan

April 4, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, coastal restoration, Media Resources, State Legislature

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.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

Conservation Groups Praise Governor Edwards’ Executive Order on Coastal Master Plan

Order Underscores State’s Prioritization of Comprehensive Coastal Restoration and Protection

(NEW ORLEANS – April 4, 2016) Moments ago, Governor John Bel Edwards signed Executive Order NO. JBE 2016 – 09 underscoring the state’s prioritization of coastal restoration and protection activities and requiring all state agencies, departments and offices to adhere to the Coastal Master Plan to the greatest degree possible. In response, national and local organizations comprising the Restore the Mississippi River Delta CoalitionEnvironmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement:

“This executive order strongly affirmed the state’s commitment to coastal restoration and protection today. With billions of dollars already invested in a master plan that has benefitted tens of thousands of acres with more forthcoming, we applaud Governor Edwards for helping to remove barriers and ensure efficiency in the state’s fight to save its coast.

“We’re all in this together, and we need to work together to undertake what the Governor has outlined as a top state priority in the years ahead. This order helps to ensure that agencies and departments will work cooperatively and leverage resources wherever possible to get the job done.

“This collaboration and unified front is especially important with Louisiana in the midst of one of the largest ecosystem restoration programs in U.S. history. We have a golden opportunity to get this right – and that also means protecting funding for and advancing projects in the Coastal Master Plan. Our organizations will continue to work with Governor Edwards and all stakeholders to do just that.”

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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 www.mississippiriverdelta.org.

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BP Oil Spill Fines Clear Way for Largest Restoration Effort in U.S. History

April 4, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in BP Oil Disaster, Federal Policy, Media Resources, RESTORE Act

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
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org 

BP Oil Spill Fines Clear Way for Largest Restoration Effort in U.S. History

State and federal leaders have once-in-a-lifetime window to make good on promises

(NEW ORLEANS – April 4, 2016) Groups working on Gulf restoration lauded news today of the signing of the consent decree between the Department of Justice and BP. The agreement is the final step to settling BP’s penalties for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Groups including Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy, released the following statement:

“Today’s approval by Judge Carl Barbier means that billions of dollars for the largest environmental restoration effort in American history can finally be put to work. Funding under the provisions of the RESTORE Act and for natural resource damages will now be guaranteed for the next 17 years. This is a unique opportunity for state and federal agencies to work together toward a more resilient Gulf of Mexico. If done right, investment in the Gulf can have lasting benefits for the region and the nation.

“Now is a time for big thinking across funding streams. This is a defining moment for the RESTORE Council and Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation leaders and others to all pull together and make good on years of promises for Gulf Coast restoration and resilience.”

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MRD Staff Bag 10 Tons of Oyster Shell with CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program

March 28, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in coastal restoration, Restoration Projects

By Deborah Abibou, Restoration Programs Director, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana

On March 4th, 20 Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition staff members rolled up their sleeves and volunteered for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program. In doing so, they accomplished three of their favorite things: taking action to restore the coast, spending time breathing in the fresh coastal air and hanging out with other folks who share a passion for Louisiana’s coast.

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MRD Staffers volunteer with CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program.

CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program has just been awarded the 2016 Conservation Achievement Award from Louisiana Wildlife Federation. This award recognizes CRCL’s efforts to return harvested oyster shell to Louisiana’s waters for coastal restoration projects. Since its inception in June 2014, the program has become the largest of its kind in the nation!

In Buras, a small town located along the Mississippi River south of New Orleans in Plaquemines Parish, staff witnessed the piles and piles of oyster shell that CRCL has collected from 26 partner restaurants. Thanks to a generous $1 million grant from Shell, the program has been able to collect more than 1,750 tons of shell.

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Jessie Ritter, National Wildlife Federation. Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society. Jackson Rollings, CRCL.

CRCL’s Restore the Mississippi River Delta partners bagged an incredible 10 tons of oyster shell! These bags will be stacked into wire construction baskets, which will be the building blocks of CRCL’s first shoreline protection project to be placed in Louisiana’s Biloxi Marsh. This half-mile structure will provide a hard substrate to jumpstart the formation of a living oyster reef. The main purpose of CRCL’s oyster reef project is to prevent the marsh from eroding by creating a wave break and allowing land to build up behind it. This will help us hold onto one more piece of our coast.

Oyster reefs are like the Swiss army knife of coastal restoration – they filter water, provide habitat for fish and other wildlife, contribute spat to oyster leases and act as wave breaks. 

For more information about the program and to sign up to volunteer, visit CRCL.org.

Check out some more pictures from the MRD staff volunteer day:

MRD staff atop pallets of oyster bags. These will be put into baskets and placed in the marsh.

Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition staff atop pallets of oyster bags. These will be put into baskets and placed in the marsh.

Steve Cochran, Campaign Director; Cathleen Berthelot, Campaign Manager; and Brooke Randolph, Office Manager cut and tie bags to be filled with shell.

Steve Cochran, Campaign Director; Cathleen Berthelot, Campaign Manager; and Brooke Randolph, Office Manager cut and tie bags to be filled with shell.

MRD Staff bagging some of the 1750 tons of oyster shell reclaimed by CRCL.

Staff bagging some of the 1,750 tons of oyster shell reclaimed by CRCL.

Samantha Carter, Outreach Committee Chair, National Wildlife Federation.

Samantha Carter, Senior Outreach Coordinator, National Wildlife Federation.

Completed bags of oysters along the Buras Harbor.

Completed bags of oysters along the Buras Harbor.

Deborah Visco Abibou is the Restoration Programs Director for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL). She leads CRCL’s Volunteer Habitat Restoration Program and Oyster Shell Recycling Program. She joined CRCL in 2015 and is a broadly trained ecologist. She earned a PhD from Tulane University in 2015 and her B.S. in Environmental Biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2006. She gained ecology and conservation experience in New York, Dominica (West Indies), Australia, California and New Hampshire before beginning her graduate studies in New Orleans. She has managed multiple projects, secured funding, directed field crews, authored papers and taught science at all levels. Previously, she served as Lead Bird Bander and Programming Director with the Woodlands Conservancy in Belle Chasse.

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