City of New Orleans Christmas Tree Recycling Program Celebrates 20 Years of Protecting Wetlands

April 6, 2015 | Posted by jhebert in Community Resiliency, Restoration Projects, Videos

By Samantha Carter, National Wildlife Federation

Where does your Christmas tree go when you leave it at the curb?

If you participated in the New Orleans tree recycling program this year, then as of April 2nd your tree is now in the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.

Black Hawk helicopter drops Christmas trees onto marsh.

Black Hawk helicopter from afar

 

 

 

After your tree was picked up off of the curb in January, it was sorted and bundled by the Department of Sanitation with help from the city’s Office of Coastal and Environmental Affairs. Then teams from the Louisiana Army National Guard Aviation Command, based in Hammond, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service met Thursday, April 2 in New Orleans East to airdrop the bundles into the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.

The National Guard uses the event as a training exercise with two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters which pick up the tree bundles and place them into cribs set up in the marsh. The tree cribs are placed in strategic locations in the marsh to reduce wave action, slow erosion and protect the natural marsh and shoreline habitat. The trees also trap sediments to help create new habitat. Over the years the project has helped to re-establish approximately 175 acres in the Wildlife Refuge.

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Thousands of people in Orleans Parish participate in this program every year and several other parishes in southern Louisiana have programs of their own.  The Christmas tree recycling program is a great way for communities to get involved in restoring the coast. Participation in the program also helps keep the trees from being incinerated or ending up in landfills.

A big thanks to the City of New Orleans, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Louisiana Army National Guard and all those who recycled their trees this year. Be sure to keep your ears open for next year’s tree pick up days!

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Exploring Early Coastal Restoration Funding and Projects

April 3, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 5 Years Later, BP Oil Disaster, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)

Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation project

Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation project

By Estelle Robichaux, Restoration Project Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund

Five years after the BP oil disaster, Gulf Coast communities are still recovering, environmental restoration is still needed, and we will not know the full impacts of the spill for possibly decades to come.

Comprehensive ecosystem restoration of the Gulf cannot begin in earnest until BP accepts responsibility and pays its civil Clean Water Act fines, which could amount to nearly $14 billion. These fines will be used for Gulf Coast restoration, thanks to the 2012 federal RESTORE Act.

Since the spill, however, some funds have been made available for initial restoration projects and research program development. Over a series of blog posts, we will explore some of these funding streams and the restoration efforts they support.

Restoration funding through NFWF

The National Fish & Wildlife Federation (NFWF), a congressionally chartered non-profit organization, was founded as a conservation grant-maker and clearinghouse. In 2013, NFWF established its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund to administer funds resulting from settlement agreements reached with Transocean and BP in the wake of the 2010 oil disaster.

The terms of these agreements state that Louisiana will receive half of these funds, which total $2.544 billion, over the course of five years for environmental restoration. Specifically, this money is dedicated to barrier island restoration and river diversion projects.

Since NFWF began granting money to the five Gulf states in late 2013, more than $221.1 million has been awarded to Louisiana for seven restoration projects and programs, all of which support our coalition's priority projects, including:

Caminada Headland Beach & Dune Restoration

Construction on a second phase of the Caminada Headland Beach & Dune restoration project should be underway this April! The engineering, design and permitting of this project, which is part of the Belle Pass to Caminada Pass Barrier Island & Headland Restoration, has been funded and completed.

East Timbalier Island Restoration

The East Timbalier Island restoration project, part of the Timbalier Islands Barrier Island Restoration, has received funding for engineering, design and permitting. The final design and permitting of this project, which has to be completed before it can be constructed, is expected to wrap up in late 2017.

River Diversions

Engineering, permitting and stakeholder engagement for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion has been funded and is underway. Initial planning studies for other river diversions are also being funded, such as the Mid-Breton, Lower Breton and Lower Barataria Sediment Diversions. Planning decisions are currently being made about the Increase Atchafalaya Flow to Terrebonne project and it may be into engineering and design as early as next year.

CPRA’s Adaptive Management Program

Components of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s Adaptive Management program are also being funded by NFWF, including the Barrier Island Comprehensive Monitoring program, the development and initial implementation of SWAMP (System-Wide Assessment and Monitoring Program) and operation of the small-scale physical model.

Restoration funding through NRDA

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) is the scientific and legal process to assess and quantify injuries to natural resources and services following environmental disasters, such as oil spills. The full NRDA process for the Gulf oil disaster may take up to a decade, so in 2011, the NRDA Trustee Council and BP agreed to implement and pay for, respectively, an early restoration program.

BP committed to providing up to $1 billion for early restoration and, so far, the Trustee Council has allocated more than $698.2 million to Gulf restoration projects. More than half of this money has gone to Louisiana for four groups of projects, funding more than $301.7 million in environmental restoration projects.

These restoration projects also support our coalition’s priority projects and include:

Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation

The construction of more than 100 acres of marsh was recently completed as part of the Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation project.

Louisiana Outer Coast Restoration Project

This project includes restoration of four barrier islands, including

  • Caillou Lake Headlands, the first component of the Isles Dernieres Barrier Island Restoration, which will restore 1,272 acres.
  • Shell Island West and Chenier Ronquille, which are part of the Barataria Pass to Sandy Point Barrier Island Restoration, together include the restoration of over 1,120 acres; and
  • North Breton Island, which will restore more than 350 acres of vital bird habitat.

Although construction on these barrier islands has not started yet, at least two of these projects will be out for construction bid within the next couple of months and under construction soon after.

What’s Next?

Although some legal and political issues have limited the pace at which comprehensive Gulf restoration has been able to be initiated, these currently funded projects are important and concrete steps towards restoration of the Mississippi River Delta. Look for our next post, which will delve into the details of one of these projects that is already under construction!

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Five years after oil spill, boat trips to Barataria Bay reveal tar balls, dying islands

April 1, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in BP Oil Disaster, Meetings/Events

Sadly, this is not an April Fools joke.

Nearly five years after the BP Gulf oil disaster, we took a trip to Louisiana's Barataria Bay to see the continuing and ongoing environmental effects of the spill. Representatives from Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Louisiana Wildlife Federation and Restore or Retreat organized a boat tour for local and national media to see for themselves the continued negative effects of the spill and the dire need for restoration.

David Muth with the National Wildlife Federation gives an overview of the tour at the Myrtle Grove Marina.

David Muth with the National Wildlife Federation gives an overview of the tour at the Myrtle Grove Marina.

Launching off from the Myrtle Grove Marina 25 miles south of New Orleans, our flotilla traveled south into Barataria Bay, which was one of the most heavily oiled areas during the spill. Five years later, the effects of the oil disaster are still visible.

Boats head out into Louisiana's Barataria Bay.

Boats head out into Louisiana's Barataria Bay.

The first stop of our tour was East Grand Terre Island, where just two weeks ago, crews uncovered a 25,000-pound BP tar mat on the island. Yesterday, five years after the oil spill, we still found tar mats and tar balls on East Grand Terre.

A tar ball on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana (March 31, 2015).

A tar ball on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana (March 31, 2015).

Next, we traveled to Cat Island, a mangrove island in Barataria Bay that was heavily oiled during the spill. Once a lush, thriving bird rookery, teeming with pelicans, rosette spoonbills, least terns and others, the island is now a skeleton of its former self: small, gray and lifeless. The mangroves that once dominated the island are sensitive to oil, which in turn killed the mangroves and caused the island to erode and slowly vanish. Observers noted that this may be the last year that we see Cat Island, as it may be completely gone by this time next year.

Once a lush, thriving mangrove island, Cat Island now small, gray and lifeless.

Once a lush, thriving mangrove island, Cat Island now small, gray and lifeless.

The final stop on our tour was the Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation project, which is some of the newest land in Louisiana. This project uses sand dredged from the Mississippi River to build marsh. It’s being funded through the Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) and the early Natural Resource Damage Assessment funding. This project has restored 650 acres at the cost of $50 million.

Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation project

Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation project

Despite what BP claims, we saw evidence showing that the oil spill is not over and its effects are ongoing. Tar mats and tar balls are still washing ashore, and islands and marsh are still in need of repair and restoration. Five years later, BP needs to accept responsibility and “make it right” for the communities, environment and wildlife of the Gulf Coast.

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Five Years Later: Gulf Oil Disaster’s Impacts to Habitat and Wildlife Still Evident

March 31, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in Birds, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Media Resources, RESTORE Act, Science, Wildlife

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

Five Years Later: Gulf Oil Disaster’s Impacts to Habitat and Wildlife Still Evident

Leading Conservation Groups Highlight BP Spill’s Ongoing Effects, Continued Need for Restoration

(New Orleans, LA—March 31, 2015) Five years after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 men and spewing at least 3.19 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, leading national and local conservation organizations working on Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast restoration – Environmental Defense FundNational Audubon SocietyNational Wildlife Federation and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement:

“Despite BP’s claims that the Gulf oil disaster and its ecological impacts are over, ongoing research and present-day observations in areas that were heavily oiled tell a different story.

“New independent scientific studies provide evidence that the full consequences of the spill to wildlife and habitats are still unfolding. From dolphins to sea turtles to birds, we still are seeing the real and lasting environmental impacts of one of the worst oil spills in our nation’s history.

“BP claims the nearly 134 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf has not negatively affected the ecosystem. But continued surveillance of areas like Barataria Bay, where thick oil coated vital wildlife habitat, including marshes and barrier islands, reveals lasting effects of the spill. Cat Island, a mangrove island that was heavily oiled, was once a lush, thriving rookery for brown pelicans and other birds, but today it is gray, lifeless and has nearly disappeared. Other coastal areas damaged by the spill are also still in need of repair.

“To this day, oil is still being found, most recently in the form of a 25,000-pound tar mat located on a Louisiana barrier island, near where 40,000 pounds of BP-oiled material was unearthed two years ago. It’s time for BP to put the publicity campaign aside, stop shirking responsibility and finally ‘make it right’ for the people, wildlife and habitats of the Gulf Coast.

“The oil disaster wreaked incomparable damage to an already-stressed Gulf Coast ecosystem. In Louisiana, the oil spill dealt another blow to an area ravaged by land loss – since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost nearly 1,900 square miles of land, or an area the size of Delaware. Nowhere is restoration more needed than the Mississippi River Delta, which is the cornerstone of a healthy Gulf ecosystem.

“Restoration solutions are within reach and plans are in place, but implementation of restoration plans cannot fully begin until BP accepts responsibility and pays its fines. Thanks to vehicles like Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan and the historic RESTORE Act of 2012, which ensures that the Clean Water Act fines BP pays will be used for restoration, the Gulf Coast can make headway on real restoration projects that can make a difference. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore the health of our wetlands, revive Gulf Coast economies that depend on them, and make the Gulf Coast better than it was before the spill, but we must begin restoration now. The Gulf Coast – and the people, wildlife and jobs that depend on it – cannot wait any longer.”

Background:

Since the BP oil disaster five years ago, ongoing findings deliver truths omitted by BP’s ads: the oil disaster’s negative effects are increasingly clear, present and far from resolved.

A new infographic depicts ongoing impacts of the Gulf oil disaster five years later. And over the past year alone, new scientific research has surfaced:

  • A 2014 study found evidence of a 1,250-square-mile area of oil contamination on the ocean floor around the Macondo wellhead in deep Gulf sediments.
  • A new NOAA study found a large number of dead dolphins in heavily oiled places, including Barataria Bay, La.
  • Recent studies estimate 800,000 birds died as a result of being exposed to BP oil.
  • Modeling for a recent stock assessment projected that between 20,000 and 60,000 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles died in 2010 as a result of the spill.
  • A 2014 study found concentrations of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) – which can cause harmful effects in many birds, fish and wildlife – in Barataria and Terrebonne marshes, which may persist for decades.
  • A 2012 study found that oiled marshes in Barataria Bay eroded at double the rate of non-oiled marshes.

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David Muth

David Muth of the National Wildlife Federation on a tour of Barataria Bay, La. March 31, 2015.

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Gulf Oil Disaster: 5 Years Later Infographic

March 31, 2015 | Posted by Ryan Rastegar in BP Oil Disaster

It's been nearly five years since the start of the BP oil disaster, and the negative effects are still being felt. New research conducted over the last few years indicates that the Gulf will likely take years, even decades, to recover. Below is a look at some of the unfortunate side effects that are still plaguing the Gulf today.

Gulf Oil Disaster: 5 Years Later Infographic

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Sign the petition today to make sure BP oil spill fines are put to good use!

Help spread the word
You can help us by sharing this infographic with your friends and family.

Tweet this: Nearly #5yearslater, the Gulf is still hurting [INFOGRAPHIC] via @RestoreDelta

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