The Mississippi River Delta is one of the hallmark symbols of Louisiana’s rich natural heritage. Unfortunately, natural and man-made alterations to the Mississippi River have changed the hydrology of the river and impeded the natural… More
The original proposed restoration strategy included installing two small siphons (averaging 400 cubic feet per second) to divert water from the Mississippi River; gapping spoil banks on Bayou Chevreuil; gapping spoil banks along the borrow beside Louisiana Highway 20; installing culverts under Louisiana Highway 20; improving drainage in impounded swamps; and planting cypress and tupelo seedlings in highly degraded swamp areas.
The proposed diversion from the Mississippi River was to bring fresh water, fine-grained sediments, and nutrients into the upper des Allemands swamps, which would have helped maintain swamp elevation, improve swamp water quality, and increase productivity and regrowth of young trees as older trees die. However, after hydrologic modeling and more detailed engineering/design and cost estimation, it was determined that the siphon would cost far more than originally anticipated. For that reason, the CWPPRA Task Force approved the project sponsors’ request to re-scope the project to eliminate the siphon feature, and to focus on the remaining project features.
Location: The project is located West of Lac des Allemands in St. James Parish, Louisiana, south of the town of South Vacherie, bordered on the south by Bayou Chevreuil, and on the east by LA Highway 20.
Progress to Date: The Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force approved Phase 1 funding in January 2001. In June 2013, the Task Force approved a request to change the scope of the project to eliminate a siphon feature and focus on the remaining original hydrologic restoration and vegetative planting project features. The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority performed the engineering and design services. Design was completed in October 2015 and Phase 2 funds for construction was approved by the Task Force in January 2016. Construction activities for excavation and placement began in October 2017 and ended on December 20, 2017, vegetative plantings occurred in late January, and officially completed on February 2, 2018.
1. Eight (8), 400-foot-long, strategically designed gaps were cut in the northern Bayou Chevreuil spoil bank to reverse the effects of impoundment;
2. Sixteen (16) spoil placement areas were created on each side of the channel banks; (1 placement area on both sides of each gap) to beneficially use the dredged material on site;
3. Seven hundred (700) Bald Cypress and one hundred (100) Water Tupelo saplings were planted in the constructed spoil placement areas to start swamp regeneration and swamp productivity.
This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 10.
The sponsors include:
Federal Sponsor: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Local Sponsor: Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA)
Last week’s Wetland Wednesday mentioned 3 main criteria as part of identifying a wetland (wetland hydrology, hydrophytic vegetation, and hydric soils). – Today we’ll look at how plants and soils help scientists delineate wetlands.
In the field, scientists identify and sample soils and plants as part of wetland delineation. The LSU AgCenter groups plant species based on where the plant is naturally found as seen in the table below.
Wetland plants have adapted to flooded soils. “Obligate” plants can tolerate water at high levels or when soil saturation is a normal condition to that area. Examples of these plants include the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), or cattail (Typha latifolia) .
In contrast, plants that cannot handle flooded conditions for an extended period would naturally be in the “upland” area of land (i.e. winged sumac (Rhus copallina), eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), or panic grass (Dichanthelium sp.) .
People delineating wetlands focus on a project area according to aerial and soil maps along with aerial photographs . Delineators then take soil samples and determine characteristics seen in hydric soils which relate to cycles of flooding and drying. – Examples of those include oxidized soils, hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell) and organic bodies found on plant roots. Finally, the plant and soil types are compared, tested, then matched to determine wetland boundaries for mapping and policy purposes .
Wetland delineation is a tool for protecting and documenting these important landscapes which contribute to a healthy and functional environment. It is important to note that wetland delineation requires much more than just plant and soil identification. CWPPRA utilizes sound science, engineering, mapping, and geo-technical surveys in the process of planning, approving, constructing, and maintaining coastal Louisiana wetland restoration projects.
 Bedhun, Rebecca. 2018. “Watch and Lean Now: How To Do A Wetland Delineation”. Shoret Elliot Hendrickson Inc. Available: http://www.sehinc.com/news/watch-and-learn-now-how-do-wetland-delineation [September 9, 2018]
 Jon Kusler. “Common Questions: Wetland Definition, Delineation, and Mapping”. Association of State Wetland Managers, Inc. Available: https://www.aswm.org/pdf_lib/14_mapping_6_26_06.pdf [September 9, 2018]
 LSU Ag Center. 2018. Louisiana Plant Identification: Plant List. Available: http://www.rnr.lsu.edu/plantid/listcommon.htm [September 10, 2018]
When we think of wetlands, our mind may paint a picture of a swampy area with open water, and maybe a heron or alligator. Despite common perception, not all wetlands are the same. — These watery features come in all shapes, sizes, and locations along with a unique system of processes and purpose.
Wetlands are diverse and the difference between dry and wet environment lies along a gradient. Therfore, there cannot be one perfect definition to represent what a wetland is. Scientists have developed criteria to identify wetlands and aid in assessment, inventory, and management .
Figure 1. An example used by scientists to start the process for wetland delineation.
|Wetland hydrology||the gradient or degree of flooding or soil saturation across a landscape .|
|Hydrophytic vegetation||plants adapted to grow in water or in a soil that is occasionally oxygen deficient due to saturation by water .|
|Hydric soils||soils that are sufficiently wet in the upper root zone and may develop anaerobic (oxygen lacking) conditions during the length of at least 1-2 growing seasons .|
As seen below in Figure 2 and 3; some wetlands are flooded year-round while other water levels fluctuate. The wetland hydrology differs depending on location and the geography of the landscape.
Figure 2: A simplified example of a wetland water gradient dependent on elevation and tidal ranges.
You may not live close to a coastal marsh, but many water sources eventually connect to a wetland on the coast, making the streams, lakes, and swamps in your backyard an important link to the larger watershed. That’s why it’s important to support, respect, and appreciate the water systems and land of everyday life. CWPPRA projects restore and protect these systems to support the livelihood and cultures of Louisiana and to protect the land we value so dearly.
In next week’s edition of Wetland Wednesday, we’ll look at how scientist use vegetation and soils to classify wetlands!
 Fish and Wildlife Service. Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States. Available: https://www.fws.gov/wetlands/documents/Classification-of-Wetlands-and-Deepwater-Habitats-of-the-United-States-2013.pdf [August 27, 2018].
 Natural Resources Conservation Service. Hydric Soils Overview. Available: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/soils/use/hydric/?cid=nrcs142p2_053985 [August 27, 2018].
This week marks 13 years since Hurricane Katrina, an event some citizens of Louisiana are still recovering from. We may have all heard the name, but do we know what a hurricane is, how wetlands are affected, and how coastal landforms can decrease hurricane impacts?
“Hurricanes” are low-pressure tropical storm systems that differ from other storms in severity as well as location. A hurricane is a storm with winds above 64mph accompanied by heavy rain that originates in either the NE Pacific or the N Atlantic Ocean (the oceans that touch the USA). Due to a phenomenon called the Coriolis Effect, hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise, whereas a southern hemisphere storm would rotate clockwise. Hurricanes develop a characteristic “eye of the storm” in the center, which is an area of low pressure and low wind. Just outside of the eye is the most severe weather, the eyewall, with winds reaching up to 210mph in the strongest storms! Hurricane “category” ratings are as follows:
- Category 1: 74-93mph
- Category 2: 96-109mph
- Category 3: 110-129mph
- Category 4: 130-157mph
- Category 5: >158mph
Hurricanes develop over areas with warmer waters, typically nearer the equator, and move away from the equator.  Coastal Louisiana is hit by hurricanes on an increasingly regular basis, and those hurricanes all develop in the North Atlantic Ocean in late summer and fall. Our “Hurricane Season” occurs from June through November each year.  Several aspects of hurricanes pose major threats to our wetlands statewide. High winds can topple trees, rip up shrubs and grasses, and move sediments around. High rainfall can cause flooding in areas that are not well-adapted to high-water conditions. Storm surge can push saline seawater into brackish and freshwater systems. Hurricanes cause massive disturbance in coastal wetlands, but wetlands are a crucial barrier that protects major cities from taking as much damage. CWPPRA works to combat land loss and protect the future of coastal Louisiana.
Some CWPPRA projects restore barrier islands, which are natural defenses that develop in the Deltaic Cycle. Barrier islands lessen storm surge during hurricanes, bearing the brunt of the waves. Sadly, they cannot provide perfect protection because they are degrading, but they are not the last line of defense. We still have coastal marshes that are great at storing water and acting like a speed bump to storm surge. It is estimated that each mile of coastal marsh decreases storm surge by about a foot. Unfortunately, many coastal marshes are decaying into open water and are no longer protective barriers. CWPPRA will continue to restore wetlands and nourish barrier islands to #ProtectOurCoast!
Featured image from 
Seeing microorganisms and cellular structures brought about a new era of scientific discovery, from understanding infectious agents to recognizing sub-cellular structures in living tissues. Microscopy allows us to observe the smallest parts of our natural world invisible to the human eye. Different types of microscopes and other analyzing tools have allowed ecologists and environmental scientists to assess the health of wetlands in coastal Louisiana. From geologists to botanists, sedimentologists to ecologists, microorganisms are a vital ally in the fight against wetland loss in coastal Louisiana.
Microorganisms like phytoplankton (microscopic plants) can be great indicators of aquatic and wetland habitat health because they are easily affected by changes and easy to observe under a microscope. Studies across the Gulf Coast sample phytoplankton and zooplankton (microscopic animals) to keep tabs on large-scale changes in water quality. For example, algal blooms, which are huge growths of phytoplankton, often lead to the death of important fisheries species. These blooms also indicate poor water quality and contribute to the worsening of hypoxia.
Soil microbes can give information on marsh platform health. In response to stressful situations, these microbes can change their cell walls’ chemical makeup to reduce physiological damage. By identifying both the stressed and non-stressed types of molecules, soils can be assessed quickly. Healthy soils are important in keeping nutrients cycling, which is crucial in keeping wetland plants alive and growing. Without a stable microbiome supporting plant growth, marsh platforms degrade and can no longer sustain life or provide any ecosystem services.
Microscopic organisms also play a huge role in coastal Louisiana’s wetlands because they are crucial in regulating marsh platforms, feeding our fisheries, and producing a huge portion of atmospheric oxygen for all terrestrial life on the planet. Coastal scientists study these tiny indicator species to quantify the health of wetland ecosystems. For example, fisheries rely on trophic interactions (food web/food chain) that include phytoplankton as the primary producers. Since seafood is such a profitable industry in Louisiana, we have a great appreciation for microbes. Louisiana’s crucial shrimp harvest and signature oysters rely directly on plankton, and larger sport fish rely on eating other things that eat plankton.
Although tiny, microorganisms play an important role in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. As complex a system as our coast is, it’s easy to see direct impacts that a weak microbial community may have on certain pieces of the full ecosystem. We urge our scientists, engineers, and legislators to be conscious of each problem our coastal zone faces and the tricky side effects that may come with them. When restoring our coast, we must look at the big picture as well as the key parts involved in our coastal wetland system!
Featured image of a Haptophyte from https://johandecelle.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/a-novel-diversity-of-haptophytes-unveiled-by-metabarcoding/
The Isles Dernieres barrier island chain is experiencing some of the highest erosion rates of any coastal region in the world. Raccoon Island is experiencing shoreline retreat both gulfward and bayward, threatening one of the most productive wading bird nesting areas and shorebird habitats along the gulf coast.
An existing demonstration project on the eastern end of the island, Raccoon Island Breakwaters Demonstration project (TE-29), has proven that segmented breakwaters can significantly reduce, and perhaps even reverse, shoreline erosion rates. The primary goal of this project is to protect the Raccoon Island rookery and seabird colonies from the encroaching shoreline by: 1) reducing the rate of shoreline erosion along the western, gulfward side and 2) extending the longevity of northern backbay areas by creating 60 acres of intertidal wetlands that will serve as bird habitat.
This project has been separated into two construction phases, Phase A and Phase B. Phase A includes the construction of eight additional segmented breakwaters gulfward of the island and immediately west of the existing breakwaters demonstration project and an eastern groin that will connect existing Breakwater No. 0 to the island. Phase B involves the construction of a retention dike along the northern shore to create a back bay enclosure that will be filled with sediments dredged from the bay and/or gulf, followed by vegetative plantings.
The project is located in the Terrebonne Basin on the western-most island of the Isles Dernieres barrier island chain in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.
Rock breakwater construction for the prior demonstration phase of this project was completed on the east end of the island in June 1997. Sand deposits or “tombolos” have developed behind the breakwaters that protect and enhance the island. A less dramatic, however still positive effect, is expected to occur behind the 8 additional breakwaters being constructed to the west of the existing breakwaters.
Construction of Phase A was completed in September 2007 and Phase B in June 2013. All plantings are to be completed by the end of 2017.
This project is on Priority Project List 11.
The Federal Sponsor is USDA NRCS
The Local Sponsor is CPRA
Louisiana’s shrinking coastal zone is due to both natural causes such as rising sea levels and wave erosion, but human activity intensifies these evolutionary processes. Some of the most impactful land loss processes further increased by human activity include salt water intrusion, proliferation of invasive species, and subsidence.
Hurricanes and other storm events push salt water inland, increasing the salinity of wetlands to levels that damage local flora adapted to lower salinities, causing those plants to die, which in turn decreases their potential to reduce storm surge around human settlements. Dredged canals for oil and gas exploration provide easy pathways for salt water to move inland since these canals are often straight.  Healthy marshes decrease the distance that storm surges can infiltrate, so any man-made development that diminishes intermediate or salt marshes indirectly affects freshwater wetlands as well.
Invasive species are plants, animals, or other biota that are from other regions of the world that cause harm to our local native environment. One such invasive species with extensive ramifications for our coastal wetlands is the Coypu, or “nutria rat.” This large rodent devastates stands of native graminoids such as cordgrasses (Spartina spp) and bulrushes (Schoenoplectus spp). Coypu specifically target the base of stems and roots, digging for them in soft sediment platforms.  Lower root concentration in soils and active disturbance make for weakened substrates that are more susceptible to being washed away. Other invasive species have similar outcomes, but not necessarily by the same method. We have several invasive animals and plants in Louisiana, each introduced by humans either on purpose or accidentally, and each one has a destructive presence along our coast. CWPPRA actively works to counter the destruction of invasive species through research, engineering and reward-based mitigation, such as the Coastwide Nutria Control Program. 
Louisiana was built by the Mississippi River over the past several thousand years, depositing layer after layer of soft, uncompacted sediment. Naturally, that sediment will compact, causing the surface to sink. Developing human settlements might speed up this process due to increased weight. Some cities are sinking as fast as 12 millimeters per year. Combined with rising sea levels, these areas are getting 15 millimeters (.6 inches) closer to sea level each year.  Combining the natural subsidence rates with unnatural marsh degradation, flooding will continue to worsen in our towns and cities. The Coastwide Reference Monitoring System (CRMS) tracks subsidence as well as several other ecological conditions and CWPPRA project performance over 391 sites along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.  Human activity is an integral component of Louisiana’s coastal zone, and CWPPRA works with biologists, engineers, local governments, volunteers, and residents to study those adverse impacts and devise innovative methods to address and deter them.
Featured Image from JennyCuervo [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
Many animals and a few plants are adaptable to changing conditions in their habitats, which is a vital ability in dynamic landscapes such as wetlands. With seasonal flooding, temperature shifts, storm pressure, nutrient availability, species density and variation, and many other factors, many species are adaptable to changes that are predictable. Unfortunately, there are man-made and natural changes that may disrupt entire ecosystems by destabilizing one “keystone species” or by changing a crucial abiotic factor such as salinity. In coastal restoration, groups like CWPPRA ensure that they are not causing a sudden shift in any ecosystem in which they are working. CWPPRA projects must abide by the results of an Environmental Impact Survey (EIS) to ensure that the proposed project is not going to disrupt key processes including reproductive cycles, migration, or nutrient replenishment.
Freshwater diversion projects are a hot topic on the restoration circuit these days, because although they seek to restore land that has been lost or save areas that are degrading, there are key stakeholders, such as oystermen, who have moved into and now rely on these now-open waters for their livelihood. Restoration groups conduct an EIS for each project to understand the impact of a project for Louisiana’s working people as well as ecosystems.
Coastal Restoration is a complex issue with many intertwined components. Ecosystems are fairly resilient, but they are threatened by large-scale, sudden changes. Storms can increase salinity in freshwater wetlands, which causes many plants and animals to die. Freshwater wetlands are constantly under pressure at their fringes because our coastal zone is moving further and further inland. This shrinkage allows more salinity influence in areas that, historically, were safe behind their salt marshes that are now deteriorating or already lost.
Restoring the coast can’t happen soon enough for the people and other animals that live there, as well as plants and even people who live outside of Louisiana. A recent state poll demonstrates that over half of Louisiana’s residents recognize that coastal land loss will directly impact them this year, and that number jumps to over 75% expecting to be impacted in the next ten years. It is clear that the concern for our rapidly disappearing coast is gaining ground, and CWPPRA stands ready to restore, rebuild and maintain Louisiana’s wetlands for the near-term and the future.
The Grand and White Lakes system has been maintained
as a fresh-to-intermediate marsh environment. This has
been accomplished through water management using
natural ridges, levees, locks, and water control structures.
This project replaces the Humble Canal structure that has
fallen into disrepair. This project is compatible with the
overall basin strategy of treating critical areas of marsh
loss within the interior of the basin and managing water
levels with structures to relieve stress on interior wetlands.
The project also relieves this area from continued saltwater
intrusion from the Mermentau River that threatens the
viability of the fresh to intermediate marshes within the
The objective of this project is to restore historical
hydrology to the project area by constructing a water
control structure consisting of five 48-inch diameter by 50-
foot long corrugated aluminum pipes with flap gates and
weir drop inlets along with one 18-inch diameter
corrugated aluminum pipe with screw gate. This structure
will protect the area from Mermentau River saltwater
intrusion and allow high water to drain from the marsh to
the river. Dredging of a small waterway is included to
increase the effectiveness of the structure.
The project is located in the Mermentau basin, on the west
bank of the Mermentau River approximately 2 miles
southwest of Grand Lake at the Humble Canal in Cameron
Construction of the project was completed March 5, 2003.
The project is now in the operation and maintenance phase.
This project is on Priority Project List 8.
Federal Sponsor is NRCS
Local Sponsor is CPRA
Wetland career opportunities are as diverse as the ecosystems they focus on. Whether you want to restore, study, inform, or otherwise utilize the abundance of ecosystem services, wetlands can provide a lifelong, rewarding career. Involvement in wetlands is not limited to the sciences; it includes numerous different disciplines. Wetland careers also span various organizations from local to the federal level and from the private sector, nonprofits, and public service positions.
Wetland restoration involves several professions within the bounds of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Coastal biologists, hydrologists, botanists, engineers, modelers, and GIS specialists are all involved in planning, constructing, and monitoring CWPPRA restoration projects. In addition to STEM professionals, the coast needs professionals that work with the communities who are impacted by coastal wetland loss and policymakers who leverage the law to ensure local, state, and federal governments prioritize coastal wetland restoration. Coastal organizations also need grant writers and development professionals to generate funds for advocacy, engagement, and restoration projects as well as individuals who are involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization.
In addition to coastal restoration careers, many individuals benefit financially from the services and resources the wetlands provide. Wetlands supply jobs in fossil fuel production, the seafood industry, and agriculture production for Louisiana’s workforce and contribute billions of dollars to our state each year. These industries have a variety of careers within STEM, social sciences, administrative, and communication fields.
Tourism and education professionals are also invested in keeping wetlands healthy. These professionals are enthusiastic to share the splendor of our state with visitors from far and wide. Teaching both our native population and out-of-state neighbors the importance of keeping wetlands working properly is one of the main goals of the CWPPRA Outreach Office, alongside many great friends and partners from groups like BTNEP and RESTORE the Mississippi River Delta.
Wetlands can also inspire careers within the arts. Artists find some of their greatest stories and strongest inspiration in the wetlands of Louisiana’s. Painters such as George Rodrigue, photographers like Frank Relle, writers such as James Lee Burke, and musicians such as Lost Bayou Ramblers, to name a few, have all found inspiration in our charming, vibrant wetlands.
If you’re interested in wetlands, there’s probably a job for you that incorporates your other interests. The fight to restore and protect our wetlands is all encompassing and there’s numerous outlets for your curiosity, creativity and innovation!
The main cause of current marsh loss is a shoreline erosion
rate of approximately 8 feet/year. A combination of wind
and wake energy prevents sediments introduced by the Gulf
Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) via the Vermilion River and
Four Mile Canal from allowing subaerial marsh development
in the area.
Reduction of shoreline erosion will be achieved by the
buffering capacity of the constructed terraces. The proposed
terrace layout is very different for each area of the project.
The “fish net” design for Little Vermilion Bay is designed to
allow sediment deposition and the terraces in Little White
Lake are aligned to reduce the wind generated waves, thus
reducing shoreline erosion. Thus, marsh habitat will be
created in two ways within the Four Mile Canal Terracing
Project area. First, marsh will immediately be built by
creating approximately 90 terraces from dredged material
and planting them with smooth cordgrass. This action alone
will create 70 acres of subaerial land. Second, by reducing
fetch and wave energy, terraces will promote the deposition
of suspended sediments in the shallow water adjacent to
the terrace edges in Little Vermilion Bay and Little White
Lake. This will slowly build marsh over the life of the
project as subaerial land is built and plants naturally become
The project is located approximately 4 miles south of
intracoastal City in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana. The
project area includes all of Little White Lake and part of the
northeastern embayment of Little Vermilion Bay.
Project construction was completed in May 2004. No
maintenance activities have been undertaken as of 2017
and none are planned prior to project closeout. While some
terraces have eroded since construction, in general the
project is in good condition and functioning as intended.
Shoreline erosion has decreased and wetland acreage has
increased since construction.
This project is on Priority Project List 9
The Federal Sponsor is NOAA NMFS
The Local Sponsor is CPRA