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)

 

 

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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]

 

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].

Black Bayou Hydrologic Restoration (CS-27)

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The purposes of the Black Bayou Hydrologic Restoration
project are to (1) restore coastal marsh habitat, and (2) slow
the conversion of wetlands to shallow, open water in the
project area. The project limits the amount of saltwater
intrusion into the surrounding marsh and canals from the
GIWW and reduces erosion caused by wave action from
nearby boats and tides.

A 22,600-foot rock dike was placed on the southern spoil
bank of the GIWW. A barge bay weir (70-foot bottom
width) was constructed in Black Bayou Cutoff Canal. Weirs
with boat bays (10-foot bottom widths) were constructed in
Burton Canal and Block’s Creek. A collapsed weir was
plugged and replaced by a fixed crest steel sheet-pile weir
with a state-of-the-art, self-regulating tidegate. Spoil
material from weir installation and the dredging of access
routes was deposited in nearby open water areas to the
height of marsh elevations. The $3 million construction
contract included installation of 55,000 marsh plants over the
next two planting seasons.

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This project, sponsored by the National Marine Fisheries
Service and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources,
is a 25,529 acre wetland located in Cameron and Calcasieu
Parishes, Louisiana. Bordered by the Gulf Intracoastal
Waterway (GIWW), Sabine Lake, Black Bayou, and Gum
Cove Ridge, the project area consists of tidally-influenced
intermediate and brackish marshes.

Construction is completed. Installation of vegetative
plantings were completed in April 2002. The monitoring
plan was finalized in March 2000, and monitoring has
begun.

This project is on Priority Project List 6.

Federal Sponsor: NOAA 

Local Sponsor: CPRA

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]

National Honey Bee Day – August 18th

August 18th was National Honey Bee day in the USA, but what’s all the buzz about? Pollinators play vital roles in plant communities, including carrying pollen from plant to plant. How does that work? How do honey bees know which flowers need their help? How do they communicate with other bees? All of that and more to come on this special #WetlandWednesday!

There are many kinds of pollinators, from birds to bugs to bats! A mutualistic relationship between pollinators and flowering plants allows the pollinators to collect food and allows the plant to spread its pollen to other individuals. Different animals have different strategies of carrying pollen. Honey bees use some very complex methods of finding, harvesting, and spreading pollen within plant communities. There are almost 20,000 described species of bees; some live in colonies and some do not, some pollinate only one plant species and some pollinate multiple species. The most cultivated of the honey bees (genus: Apis), the Eastern Honey Bee (A. mellifera), is a colonial bee species that does not specialize on one plant. In flight, bees build up an electrostatic charge on their fine, branched hairs. When bees climb into flowers looking for sugary nectar, their charged hairs attract pollen even from a couple of millimeters away! The charge and the branches in their hairs help to keep the pollen attached when the bee leaves in search of its next bounty of sugar.

How do honey bees find flowers? Using a combination of visual, chemical, and communicated clues, bees are highly specialized to find the flowers that are just right for them. Compound eyes do not have the high definition visuals that human eyes have, but they can see ultraviolet light. Some flowers have ultraviolet patterns on their petals called “nectar guides”. [1] When in flight, bees will not always see color, but they can still see shapes and can recognize nectar guide shapes, as well as smell aromas from the flowers. Bees can also communicate instructions or coordinates for finding flowers through “waggle dancing”! [2]

Honey bees pollinate throughout wetlands across the world and have major positive impacts on ecosystem health. Native trees and shrubs of Louisiana that are dependent on pollinators like the European honey bee include Wax Myrtle (Morella cerifera), Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora, our Louisiana state flower), and Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor). Some smaller flowers that need bee pollinators include Wooly Rosemallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpus), Coneflower (Rudbeckia triloba), and Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans). [3] Honey bees are also vital in pollinating about 90% of agricultural crops nationwide! Without pollinators, our Louisiana wetlands would not be as productive and vibrant as they are, and we need the help of pollinators to #ProtectOurCoast!

 

[1] https://www.bumblebee.org/bodyEyehtm.htm

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waggle_dance

[3] http://pollinator.org/guides

Featured image from https://www.louisianabeesanctuary.org/

Bayou Cane Marsh Creation (PO-181)

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Problems:
In 2005, the marshes in the North Shore Mapping Unit sustained severe damage due to Hurricane Katrina. Hundreds of acres of emergent marsh within this mapping unit were lost, resulting in hundreds of acres of shallow open water and scour ponds averaging about 2 ft deep. USGS calculated a 1984 to 2016 area loss rate of -0.91 % per year. Currently there is one area along the shoreline that looks as if a breach is forming. This area also has a small pond immediately behind the critical shoreline. If there were a breach in this area it would allow direct connection between the fresher interior marshes and higher salinity waters of Lake Pontchartrain.
Restoration Strategy:
The overall goal of this project is to restore marshes that were lost and/or damaged due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Restoring the marshes should reduce salinity effects on interior emergent marshes.
The proposed features of this project consist of filling approximately 384 acres of shallow open water and nourishing an additional 65 acres of fragmented and/or low marsh with material hydraulically dredged from Lake Pontchartrain. Target settled marsh elevation would be +1.2 NAVD 88, but will ultimately correspond to surrounding healthy marsh.
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Progress to Date:
This project was approved for Phase I Engineering and Design on February 9th, 2018.
This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 27.
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