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Hydrologic Restoration and Vegetative Planting (BA-34-2)

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Problems:
The Lac des Allemands River Basin Initiative identified the following specific problems within the Lac des Allemands Watershed: drainage impairments; water quality impairments; loss of marsh; and decline of cypress forest. Many years of study by Louisiana State University researchers in these swamps have demonstrated that, because of impoundment, subsidence, and inadequate accretion of sediments and organic matter, some areas are already highly stressed and converting to open water, floating aquatic plants, and fresh marsh. Also, the Coast 2050 report suggests that other areas of the swamps throughout the basin will likely convert to open water or floating marsh by the year 2050. These problems are caused by the loss of river water along with the associated sediment and nutrients necessary for swamp health. The loss of river water can be attributed to the leveeing of the Mississippi River. Impoundment caused by roads, drainage canals, and spoil banks is also a major cause of degradation of these swamps.
Restoration Strategy:

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.

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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.

The three (3) principal project features included:

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 enhanced 2,395 acres of swamp habitat that would have continued to degrade without the project.

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)

 

 

Featured

Classifying Wetlands Part 2

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.

indicator_2Wetland 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) [3].

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.) [3].

People delineating wetlands focus on a project area according to aerial and soil maps along with aerial photographs [1]. 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 [1].

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.

Sources:

[1] 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]

[2] 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]

[3] LSU Ag Center. 2018. Louisiana Plant Identification: Plant List. Available: http://www.rnr.lsu.edu/plantid/listcommon.htm [September 10, 2018]

 

Featured

Classifying Wetlands Part 1

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 [1].

Figure 1. An example used by scientists to start the process for wetland delineation.

Criteria Definition
Wetland hydrology the gradient or degree of flooding or soil saturation across a landscape [2].
Hydrophytic vegetation plants adapted to grow in water or in a soil that is occasionally oxygen deficient due to saturation by water [2].
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 [2].

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.

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Figure 3.

basic_gradientYou 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!

 

Source:
[1] 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].
[2] 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].
Featured

Hurricanes

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. [1] 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. [2] 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!

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_cyclone

[2] https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

Featured image from [1]

Evolving Study of Wetlands

From towing an airboat to a site, to driving the vessel, to taking samples in the hot, humid sun, there are many challenges for researchers as they study coastal wetlands.  Thanks to innovations in drone technology, researchers can study the wetlands a little easier. With free movement in every direction, a camera, and various other attachments, drones can gather enormous amounts of data in a fraction of the time that it would take more traditional methods. Drones are far from alone on the forefront of technological advancement. Innovations in drones sit alongside and often work synergistically with GIS/GPS, remote sensing, and machine learning breakthroughs, to name a few.

In addition to the evolution of drone technology, computer software and hardware systems evolve just as quickly, consistently streamlining data collection, processing, and analysis. The two go hand-in-hand, of course; complex software can only be run with more powerful or specialized computer hardware, tailored to the task it will be performing. Major game-changers challenge the norms and traditions of science increasingly more often. In the past several decades, satellite imagery has become more prevalent, drones have allowed scientists and others to access new perspectives, and machine learning has grown to process more parameters at higher speeds. All of this advancement in computing has allowed scientists to develop greater understandings of systems, connectivity, and changes in wetlands.

In addition to improvements in drones, software, and processing power, researchers have improved the development of environmental models. Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, one of CWPPRA’s managing agencies, joined with LSU to design, manufacture, and implement the Center for River Studies’ scale model of the Mississippi River in 2017. An amazing feat of engineering, the river model allows scientists to study several aspects of our coastal zone. Using a sediment medium that mimics Mississippi River sediments, studies can predict what will happen during a flood event, if a diversion gets installed, and so many other situations. Hydrology, sedimentation, and potential ecological impacts can all be measured on this 10,000 square-foot platform at approximately a 13:1-time scale, i.e. one full day running the model represents about thirteen full days on the real Mississippi River.

In a dynamic landscape like coastal Louisiana, good equipment is a huge benefit to studies and planning for the future. Land loss is a complex issue with several moving parts that need to be studied and addressed. It is imperative that there is a good understanding of the full system before any changes are made that could have detrimental effects on any important aspects of our productive, populated, and protective coast.

 

Related articles:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364815217311295

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/remote-sensing

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925857417303658

 

Featured image from https://blog.nature.org/science/2016/09/27/flight-over-the-bas-ogooue-using-drones-to-map-gabons-wetlands/

Barataria Bay Waterway East Side Shoreline Protection (BA-26)

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The banks of the Dupre Cut have eroded considerably as a
result of vessel wakes. Large breaches in the banks
exposed the adjacent marsh to increased water exchange,
tidal energy, and saltwater intrusion.

The objective of this project was to rebuild and stabilize
the east bank of the Dupre Cut. A stronger bank would
reduce erosion and help reestablish wetlands by allowing
sediment accretion on the leeward side of the foreshore
rock dike.

The project plan involved the construction of over 3 miles
of foreshore rock dike along the east bank of the Dupre
Cut to protect adjacent marshes from shoreline erosion.
This rock dike extends above the surface of the water and
will protect the fragile marsh area from boat wakes
generated within the BBWW.

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The project is located in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, on
the east bank of the Dupre Cut portion of the Barataria Bay
Waterway, north of the Lafitte Gas and Oil Field and south
of the subsided land reclamation effort known as “the
Pen.”

 

Construction was completed in June 2001. Baseline
monitoring information has been collected and will be
used to evaluate the project’s effectiveness. The O&M
Plan was signed in October 2002. This project is on
Priority Project List 6.

The Federal Sponsor is NRCS.

The Local Sponsor is CPRA.

EcoSTEAM Summer Camp

Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Project Front Yard hosts five weeks of a summer camp focused on environmental issues and STEAM activities. Eco-STEAM began June 17 and CWPPRA joined campers June 24 through 28. Our Wetland Warriors program included three days of wetland-based activities, outlining important adaptations that help plants and animal species with survival in the dynamic coastal wetlands of Louisiana.

We began on Monday with Wetland Jeopardy because it leads into discussion about wetland ecosystem services and children enjoy the friendly competition. The next day, we focused more specifically on wetland plants and their importance to overall ecosystem health. The Girard Park pond was helpful to discuss adaptations like the bald cypress. Our last day centered on wetland animals, mostly birds, and some of their adaptation for wetlands habitats. Birds are an excellent teaching tool because some can swim, walk, and fly, and beak variability can have some serious implications on species distribution. The campers enjoyed the beak variability activity, which challenged them to use a spoon, a fork, a straw and a toothpick to pick up various shaped snacks like gummy worms, sunflower seeds, goldfish crackers, and mini M&Ms. Our week of wetland instruction concluded with a field trip to Lafayette’s Acadiana Park Nature Station.

This was the Eco-STEAM’s second year and CWPPRA was thrilled to be included again, alongside great community partners including local IT giant CGI, UL Lafayette’s Hilliard Art Museum, the McComb-Veazey Neighborhood Coterie, and Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Office of Community Development, Parks and Recreation Department, and Recycling Division. This program is offered as an affordable summer option for area kindergarten through eighth grade students and we interacted with just over 100 eager new “Wetland Warriors.”

 

Cooperation is Key

The American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) celebrates America’s beaches annually by highlighting recently restored recreational coastal areas. The Caminada Headland’s beach restoration is one of the four winners of the ASBPA’s Best Restored Beach award, alongside South Padre Island in Texas, Waypoint Park Beach in Washington, and Duval County in Florida. [1] The Caminada Headland restoration project was spearheaded by our state partner, CPRA, and multiple CWPPRA projects preceeded it and work synergistically to  improve the entire Caminada barrier island system.

CPRA’s Caminada Headland Beach and Dune Restoration is a barrier island restoration project with two increments (BA-45 and BA-143) constructed in 2015 and 2017. Since the input of approximately 5.4 million cubic yards of sediment, the beach has improved habitat for shorebirds and plants. In addition to the direct benefits of the beach as a habitat, the healthy barrier island will better protect the marsh on the bay side as well as inland wetlands from storm surge and wave energy.

CWPPRA’s Caminada Headlands Back Barrier Marsh Creation increments 1&2 (BA-171, BA-193) is directly behind CPRA’s Caminada Headland Beach and Dune Restoration and greatly benefits from the project.  Together CPRA and CWPPRA have restored a complete barrier island, which would have been difficult and costly to do without partners. Our coast’s future depends on the cooperation of organizations and their projects. Louisiana’s land loss crisis is too large to tackle in one way or by one group, and successful collaboration leads to the best available science, innovative design, and systems-based approaches. CWPPRA and our state partners are working towards a common goal: a healthy coast for the future of our state.

[1] http://asbpa.org/2019/05/20/celebrating-americas-beaches-asbpa-names-its-best-restored-beaches-for-2019/

https://www.lacoast.gov/reports/project/20180601_BI_lessons_learned_SOC18__Darin_Lee.pdf

 

Featured image from https://www.audubon.org/magazine/fall-2017/louisiana-restoring-its-barrier-islands-defend

Enhancement of Barrier Island Vegetation Demonstration (TE-53)

wordpress fact sheet banner TE-53-01Barrier Islands provide critical habitat and are the first line of defense to not only day-to-day coastal erosion but also to the destructive forces of major storm events. There remains a critical need to develop cost-effective improvements to existing restoration methodologies that will enhance the successful establishment and spread of vegetation in these important restoration projects. Developing methodologies to enhance vegetation establishment and growth in barrier island restoration projects is important in this very stressful environment because healthy vegetative cover traps, binds, and stabilizes sand and sediment, thereby improving island integrity during storm and overwash events.

The purpose of this demonstration project was to test several technologies and/or products to enhance the cost-effective establishment and growth of key barrier island and salt marsh vegetation. Humic acid and broadcast fertilization regimes were applied. The humic acid amendment and broadcast fertilization regime techniques are intended to “jump start” and facilitate the rapid establishment and expansion of vegetation. Humic acid benefits were demonstrated in both intertidal and supratidal plantings, whereas broadcast fertilization benefits were only demonstrated in supratidal plantings.

Each product (humic acid and fertilizer) is commercially available and off-the-shelf. Enhancing the establishment of woody vegetation (black mangrove and groundsel bush) was achieved via high-density dispersal techniques of propagules and seeds, a cost-saving alternative to planting container-grown transplants. All treatment test sections and reference planting areas were visually inspected and sampled quarterly (plant and soil variables) and compared to the reference area in order to develop recommendations for future planting projects.

This project involved greenhouse studies and the testing of technologies at two previously planted CWPPRA project sites. The CWPPRA projects involved were New Cut Dune and Marsh Restoration (TE-37) and Whiskey Island Back Barrier Marsh Creation (TE-50). Both sites are located in Terrebonne Parish in the Isles Dernieres Barrier Island area.

 

The project has been completed.

This project is on Priority Project List 16.

The Federal Sponsor is EPA

The Local Sponsor is CPRA

GOMA All Hands Meeting

Community Outreach and Media Specialist Kacie Wright represented the CWPPRA Outreach Team at the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) All Hands Meeting in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Like CWPPRA, GOMA highlights the importance of partnerships to enhance the health of the Gulf Coast. Similarly to CWPPRA being made up of five federal agencies, GOMA is led by leaders of the five Gulf States (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida) and includes a network of individuals from nonprofits, federal agencies, businesses, and academic organizations throughout the Gulf Coast. At the All Hands Meeting, attendees broke into Priority Issue Teams to address issues such as Community Resilience, Data & Monitoring, Education & Engagement, Habitat Resources, Wildlife & Fisheries, and Water Resources. 

Because CWPPRA promotes the value of wetlands and engage the public in the importance of coastal restoration, we attended the Education & Engagement Priority Team meeting. At the meeting, individuals shared new ideas and projects to enhance the Gulf Coast. Team members from the Texas Aquarium shared their work engaging teachers to improve coastal curriculum in schools through NOAA’s Watershed Environmental Education Grants. One individual from the Galveston Bay Keeper detailed her project on changing the behavior of individuals who toss their fishing line into the bay.

The Director of the Mississippi State University Television Center, David Garraway, also presented to the Education & Engagement Team about best practices for crafting effective visual storytelling and going live on social media. Garraway shared the importance of understanding your audience and the message you want to share when creating video content for social media. A key message of his presentation was “show your audience, don’t tell them” when creating videos. 

The Education & Engagement Team also highlighted GOMA’s Embrace the Gulf 2020 campaign. Next year is the ten-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the fifteen-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. GOMA will highlight the benefits gulf ecosystems bring to the communities along the coast. While these disasters have made us stronger, they do not define our communities. We all live and work along the Gulf Coast because we love it here. During Embrace the Gulf 2020, GOMAis planning 365 facts to share with their network and a blueways-paddling trail throughout all five Gulf States. This paddling trail will encourage people to get out on the water and enjoy the coastal ecosystems all along the Gulf Coast. 

The CWPPRA Outreach Team had a great time in Gulf Shores, Alabama, but we are excited to be back in Coastal Louisiana embracing all the new ideas about engaging outreach content and connections with other ambitious groups we formed at the GOMA All Hands Meeting. We are ready to Embrace the Gulf in 2020 and we hope to see you on the Paddle the Gulf paddle trail! We will keep y’all posted as it develops!

 

Airboats: A Tool for Restoration

Navigating wetlands can be difficult for traditional boats due to the changes in water depth and the amount of mud and muck, as well as the meandering of the waterways. Because of these complications, boats that travel both over land and water are needed to explore coastal wetlands. The creation of airboats and innovations in their design have allowed for greater exploration of wetlands and are vital to CWPPRA’s wetland restoration.

Airboats evolved since their introduction in 1905 by Alexander Graham Bell, who is also credited as the inventor of the telephone. His first model was named the “Ugly Duckling”, a crude test vehicle that incorporated an aircraft propeller mounted on the back of a simple pontoon boat. Over the next decade, further developments turned airboats into World War I reconnaissance vessels. Following the end of the war, commercialization led to a rise in popularity among civilians with companies designing taxis and recreation vessels alongside independent innovators creating their own airboat designs. One of the most revolutionary models was built in 1943 at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah and dubbed the “Alligator I”. This design was the first known to use air rudders rather than traditional rudders, and most airboats today replicate the Alligator I’s flat bottom hull with air rudders. [1]

Thanks to the inventors at Bear River, Louisiana’s wetlands are more navigable than ever. Further developments have allowed airboats to pass over land, increased passenger capacity and engine horsepower, allowing those in pursuit of recreation, scientific research, and sport hunting/fishing to reach previously inaccessible parts of our wetlands. CWPPRA teams visit project sites using airboats to help get an idea of problems to be addressed through the duration of projects, ensuring the best quality of restoration for our coast. Restoration and preservation have been made easier with creative solutions like airboats, so we would like to recognize the innovators who worked a century ago to improve upon each other’s designs. Once again, the land loss crisis and need for wetland restoration in Louisiana is too large for us to do it alone. We need all the help we can get from innovators like those at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge to help restore our coast.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airboat#First_prototypes

Featured image is from a CWPPRA site visit to our BA-34-2 project.