On May 23, we celebrated the 17th annual World Turtle Day sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue. This nonprofit organization was established in 1990 to protect all species of tortoises and turtles. They created World Turtle… More
On Tuesday, May 2, 2017, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act’s Public Outreach staff participated in the annual Coastal Day at the Louisiana Legislature. This event, organized by the Coast Builders Coalition, aims to educate legislators about the tremendous effort being made to protect and restore Louisiana’s coast. Coastal Day is a key moment to communicate with and educate representatives and legislators from across the state about the value of protection and restoration of Louisiana’s coast.
The CWPPRA outreach team shared a number of publications at Coastal Day containing information regarding what CWPPRA is, the effectiveness of its projects, and the future of coastal Louisiana. In addition to distributing information and answering questions regarding CWPPRA’s completed, active, and future projects, the outreach staff attended a meeting in which Governor John Bel Edwards spoke highly of restoration efforts in Louisiana and the importance of the 2017 Coastal Master Plan. He also recognized the value of wetlands to both the state and the country, declaring his enthusiasm to move forward with the opportunity to resolve the coastal crisis and become more adept at water management. In addition to the governor, speakers including Representative Jerome Zeringue, Senator Dan Morrish, Johnny Bradberry with CPRA, and Scott Kirkpatrick with Coast Builders Coalition discussed issues affecting Louisiana’s coast. Steve Cochran with Restore the Mississippi River Delta and the Environmental Defense Fund discussed a recent poll in which a resounding 97 percent of voters agreed that Louisiana’s coastal wetlands are important to them.
During the month of May, we recognize and celebrate the various ways that wetlands enrich the environment and people. American Wetlands Month is a time to celebrate why wetlands are indispensable to the ecological, economic, and social health of our country. It is a full month to encourage both communities and individuals to actively participate in the planning, protection, and restoration of our wetlands. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partners with other federal and private partners in celebration of American Wetlands Month each May. These organizations schedule events throughout the month of May to engage those who are striving to better understand the value of wetlands to our country.
An entire month dedicated to American Wetlands speaks volumes on how valuable this natural resource is, although it is among the least understood. Wetlands help improve water quality and supply, reduce flooding, and provide critical habitat for plants, fish and wildlife. Government regulations and zoning restrictions are not enough to protect and restore wetlands alone. Americans must also participate in these efforts to save our wetlands.
History of American Wetlands Month
In 1991, American Wetlands Month was created in effort to celebrate the importance of wetlands and educate Americans about the value of this natural resource. A wide range of individuals with ties to wetlands participate in events and celebrations throughout the month of May to increase awareness of the benefits wetlands provide with hopes of inspiring people to work year-round to protect and expand our wetlands.
Explore Wetlands Around You!
Wetlands are present in all 50 states. It is likely that a wetland exists nearby for you to explore and increase your education during American Wetlands Month and throughout the year. Take some time to learn about wetlands and ways to protect the wetlands around you!
In 1990, the U.S. Congress enacted the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) in response to the growing awareness of Louisiana’s land loss
crisis. CWPPRA was the first federal, statutorily mandated program with a stable source of funds dedicated exclusively to the short- and long-term restoration of the coastal wetlands of Louisiana. Between 1990 and 2016, 108 restoration projects were constructed through the CWPPRA program. These projects include diversions of freshwater and sediments to improve marsh vegetation; dredged material placement for marsh creation; shoreline protection; sediment and nutrient trapping; hydrologic restoration through outfall, marsh, and delta management; and vegetation planting on barrier islands.
The coastal protection and restoration efforts implemented through numerous CWPPRA projects require monitoring and evaluation of project effectiveness. There is also a need to assess the cumulative effects of all projects to achieve a sustainable coastal environment. In 2003, the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration (now CPRA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) received approval from the CWPPRA Task Force to implement the Coastwide Reference Monitoring System (CRMS) as a mechanism to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of CWPPRA projects at the project, region, and coastwide levels (Steyer and others, 2003). The CRMS network is currently funded through CWPPRA and provides data for a variety of user groups, including resource managers, academics, landowners, and researchers.
The effectiveness of a traditional monitoring approach using paired treatment and reference sites is limited in coastal Louisiana because of difficulty in finding comparable test sites; therefore, a multiple reference approach using aspects of hydrogeomorphic functional assessments and probabilistic sampling was adapted into the CRMS design. The CRMS approach gathers information from a suite of sites that encompass a range of ecological conditions across the coast. Trajectories of changing conditions within the reference sites can then be compared with trajectories of change within project sites. The CRMS design not only allows for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of each project but will also support ongoing evaluation of the cumulative effects of all CWPPRA projects throughout the coastal ecosystems of Louisiana. Simulations made by using the resampling methodology described in Steyer and others (2003) indicated that 100 randomly selected reference sites would accurately represent the true composition of coastwide vegetation at a 95 percent confidence level. However, in order to detect a 20 percent change in coastal marsh vegetation between two time periods, at least 80 percent of the time, approximately 400 reference sites were needed. Because of land rights and other technical issues, 390 sites with a fixed annual sampling design were approved and secured for CRMS data collection. These 390 CRMS sites are located within nine coastal basins and four CWPPRA regions, covering the entire Louisiana coast. Site construction and data collection began in 2005.
Because of the quantity of products and data that will be produced over the lifetime of the CRMS project, a website (http://www.lacoast.gov/crms) was designed to be a one-stop shop for CRMS information, products, and data. The ecological data available through the website are linked to the official Louisiana CPRA database – the Coastal Information Management System (CIMS), which houses all CWPPRA monitoring data, on topics such as the following: hydrology, herbaceous marsh vegetation, forested swamp vegetation, soil properties, soil accretion, and surface elevation. Data provided by the Louisiana CPRA are available for downloading at https://cims.coastal.louisiana.gov/. The basic viewer (under Mapping) on the CRMS Web site provides a user-friendly interface for viewing information on specific sampling sites, including photos, data summaries, and report cards. Analytical teams are developing mechanisms by which individual sampling sites can be assessed in relation to other sites within the same marsh type, hydrologic basin, and CWPPRA project. These multi-scale evaluations will be presented on a “Report Card” tab within the basic viewer. The CRMS program is as dynamic as the coastal habitats it monitors. The program continues to develop new products and analysis tools while providing data for model improvement and scientific research. The CRMS Web site is the current dissemination mechanism for all activities related to the program. For a beginner’s guide to retrieving CRMS data, visit https://www.lacoast.gov/new/Ed/CRMS_Manual.pdf.
Steyer, G.D., Sasser, C.E., Visser, J.M., Swensen, E.M., Nyman, J.A., and Raynie, R.C., 2003, A proposed coast-wide reference monitoring system for evaluating wetland restoration trajectories in Louisiana: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, v. 81, p. 107–117.
Altered hydrology, drought stress, saltwater intrusion and hurricane induced wetland losses have caused the area to undergo interior marsh breakup. Recent impacts from Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008 have resulted in the coalescence of Oyster Lake with interior water bodies increasing wave/wake related erosion. Based on USGS hyper temporal data analysis (1984 to 2011), land loss for the area is -0.75% per year. The subsidence rate is estimated at 0.0 to1.0 ft per century (Coast 2050, Mud Lake mapping unit).
The project boundary encompasses 809 acres. Specific goals of the project are: 1) create 510 acres of saline marsh in recently formed shallow open water; 2) nourish 90 acres of existing saline marsh; 3) create 17,500 linear feet of terraces; and, 4) reduce wave/wake erosion.
Approximately 510 acres of marsh would be created and 90 acres would be nourished. Sediment needed for the fill would be mined approximately one and a half miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Half of the created acres would be planted. Tidal creeks and ponds would be constructed prior to placement of dredged material and retention levees would be gapped to support estuarine fisheries access to achieve a functional marsh. Approximately 17,500 linear feet of earthen terraces would be constructed and planted.
This project is in Region 4, Calcasieu-Sabine Basin, located west of the Calcasieu Ship Channel and south of the west fork of the Calcasieu River.
This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 21.
The Oyster Bayou Marsh Creation project sponsors include:
- Federal Sponsor: National Marine Fisheries Service
- Local Sponsor: Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
In honor of National Environmental Education week, this week’s Wetland Wednesday highlights the
Louisiana Environmental Education Commission
The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission (LEEC) is a primary resource for all educators and citizens in furthering their environmental knowledge and awareness. The mission of the LEEC is to create a comprehensive and balanced environmental education initiative that results in environmentally literate citizens who effectively and constructively solve existing environmental problems, prevent new ones, and maintain a sustainable environment for future generations.
Environmental Education Symposium: This annual two day conference includes workshops, concurrent sessions, exhibits, and keynote speaker on formal and informal environmental science education. This professional development opportunity for educators stimulates new classroom ideas and techniques, provides an opportunity for educators to network, and provides additional information on other professional development and classroom opportunities. Lodging assistance is awarded to applicable educators in order to help offset the cost of attendance. The LEEC partners with the Louisiana Environmental Education Association (LEEA) to plan & develop this symposium. – February
Educator / Professional Development / Research / Green Schools Grants Program: Teachers, university students, and informal educators can apply for competitive mini-grants ranging from $1000 to $5000 for a total of approximately $50,000 in awarded funds. Grants that are funded are based on sound scientific principles, have an environmental focus, and impact Louisiana students, educators, or Louisiana issues. Recipients are invited to present their ideas/findings at the Environmental Education Symposium. – March/April
Green Schools Program: The LEEC and the Louisiana Department of Education have an MOU in place to partner on promoting green initiatives in K-16 schools/universities, complementing the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Green Ribbon Schools initiatives. LDWF staff actively works with schools and universities around the state to encourage and offer guidance on the implementation of these ED pillars: (1) reduce environmental impacts and costs, (2) improve health and wellness, and (3) provide effective environmental and sustainability education. – ongoing
Art and Language Arts Contest: This K-12 student contest focuses on an environmental theme which is chosen annually by the LEEC. Information and applications are disseminated throughout school systems, home schools, and informal education venues. An awards ceremony honoring the winners, their families, and their teachers is held at the Governor’s Mansion in June. The winning entries are used to produce a calendar for the following year, which is distributed throughout the state. – January thru June
Workshops: The LEEC periodically hosts professional development workshops for environmental educators. To be offered in summer 2017 is Watershed Webs, which is a 4-day workshop for teachers of students in grades 5-12. It focuses on the dynamics of watersheds, water quality, trash, and our new WET tracker app. Teachers in the coastal parishes/counties of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas are eligible to participate. The Watershed Webs workshop series is funded through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration B-WET grant.
CWPPRA Restoration Technique: Terracing
The goal of building terraces is to achieve some of the same objectives as full marsh creation but over a larger area of open water, where marsh creation alone is not feasible. Terraces are long, earthen berms that are built by mechanically dredging material and piling and shaping the material to a desired height. Most terraces average around 3 feet tall, with shallow side slopes and a wide base. This size and shape optimize the amount of terrace that falls in the intertidal zone and will support wetland vegetation.
The objectives of constructing terraces are several and depend upon the location in which they are built. These include acting as a sediment trap to help build new land, reducing wave fetch and erosion on adjacent marsh shorelines, creating habitat for fish and waterfowl, and improving water quality to promote the growth of aquatic vegetation. Terracing projects constructed under CWPPRA have achieved each of these goals, with sediment trapping being most evident near the openings of sediment-laden bays or navigational waterways.
Terracing has become a widely used technique that is expanding across the Gulf Coast because of the success and cost-effectiveness demonstrated through CWPPRA and privately funded projects. Although these features may not look like natural marsh and often use geometric configurations, they are able to perform a lot of the functions of natural marsh in areas that have become vast open water. Developing this cost-effective technique for use in areas that have few other restoration options is a testament to CWPPRA’s ability to adapt to funding constraints and a quickly changing environment.
The Caminada Headland has experienced some of the highest shoreline retreat rates in Louisiana. Historically the shoreline has migrated landward at about 40 feet per year. Between 2006 and 2011, shoreline migration increased dramatically, exceeding 80 feet per year in near Bay Champagne and 110 feet per year in the Bayou Moreau area. The increased losses occurred in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 as the breaches remained open for an extended length of time. The losses were exacerbated by Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008. Significant prolonged breaches greatly increase the net export of sediment from the headland.
In addition to the shoreline migration, the area is also experiencing high loss rates of interior marshes. As the beach and dune continue to migrate landward, overwashed sediment will be lost into newly formed open water and land loss rates will be exacerbated. The continued deterioration of Caminada Headland threatens thousands of acres of wetland habitat as well as critical infrastructure, including Port Fourchon, LA Highway 1, and the lower Lafourche levee system.
The goals of this project are to: 1) Create and/or nourish 385 acres of back barrier marsh, by pumping sediment from an offshore borrow site; 2) Create a platform upon which the beach and dune can migrate, reducing the likelihood of breaching, improving the longevity of the barrier shoreline, and protecting wetlands and infrastructure to the north and west. The proposed project is expected to slow the current trend of degradation in the headland.
This project would create 210 acres of back barrier intertidal marsh and nourish 175 acres of emergent marsh behind 3.5 miles of the Caminada beach using material dredged from the Gulf of Mexico. The marsh creation and nourishment cells are designed to minimize impacts on existing marsh and mangroves. Assuming some natural vegetative recruitment, vegetative plantings are planned at a 50% density, with half planned at project year one and half planned at project year 3. Containment dikes will be degraded or gapped by year three to allow access for estuarine organisms.
The project area is defined as the area south of Louisiana Highway 1 between Belle Pass and Caminada Pass, directly behind Caminada Headland beach covering areas in and around Bay Champagne and areas east of Bayou Moreau. The Caminada Headlands Back Barrier Marsh Creation project is located along the Louisiana coastline in LaFourche Parish in CWPPRA Planning Region 2.
A kick-off meeting was held in June 2014. The project team has completed preliminary engineering and design, environmental compliance, real estate negotiations, operation & maintenance and monitoring planning, and a cultural resources investigation, all to the 95% design level as required by the CWPPRA standard operating procedures. The 30% design review meeting was held July 28, 2016 and the 95% design review was held on October 28, 2016. The Phase II Request for construction funding was presented to the CWPPRA Tech Committee on December 7, 2016.
This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 23.
The Caminada Headlands Back Barrier Marsh Creation project sponsors include:
- Federal Sponsor: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Local Sponsor: Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority