Louisiana Coastal Land Loss: A Local Example, A Global Concern

Effects of global climate change, such as sea-level rise, continue to affect Louisiana’s coastal populations and economy. Some may not know that Louisiana’s coast is also known as “America’s Wetland”. It derives its name from the vast expanse of wetlands along the coast (Louisiana contains 40% of all tidal marshes in the continental United States [1]).

Benefits provided by the Louisiana Coastland:

  • Louisiana produces 30% of all coastal fisheries in the continental U.S. [1]
  • Louisiana serves 90% of the nation’s offshore energy, and 30% of the U.S. oil and gas supply [5]
  • Louisiana wetlands provides vital hurricane protection to the 2 million citizens living in the area [1]
  • Louisiana’s boating ports provide access for 31 states [5]
  • Louisiana is home to one of America’s most remarkable cultures [1]
  • Louisiana is an area of world ecological significance for wildlife [1]

Coastal land loss has affected the people and environment of Louisiana for more than a century now. According to the New York Times, Isle de Jean Charles climate refugees are an example of the new and massive problem the world may be facing in the coming decades [2]. The island has lost 98 percent of its land area since 1955 as sea levels rise and land is lost to the Gulf of Mexico. Most Isle de Jean Charles residents are Native American and tribal members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians as well as the United Houma Nation [3].

tribes_losing

In 2016, “the community of Isle de Jean Charles became the first U.S. group of “climate refugees” to receive federal assistance for a large-scale retreat from the effects of climate change” [3]. The terms “migration with dignity” or “planned relocation” are preferred over “climate refugees” [4]. Other American groups considered “climate refugees” are the Quinault Indian Nation of the Pacific Northwest and the Inupiat of Kivalina, Alaska [4].

Dr. Julia Meaton from the University of Huddersfield’s Centre for Sustainable and Resilient Communities, mentioned, “Most people don’t engage with climate change because they perceive it as a distant phenomenon. They think there’s nothing they can do and technology or governments will solve the problem”; she also notes, “we worry about our children and our grandchildren but we don’t worry about the future for our children’s grandchildren” [7].

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists  (NOAA) say that by the year 2100, the Gulf of Mexico could rise as much as 4.3 feet across the Louisiana landscape [5]. Dr. Julia Meaton from the University of Huddersfield says, “an estimated 250 million people will be climate change refugees by the year 2050″ [7]. She also mentioned that to combat to global climate change “we need to completely change our business models, consume less, increase energy efficiency,  and make fewer demands on the world’s natural resources [7].

Economic losses that Louisiana experiences may expand across the nation. Louisiana coastal land loss is not just a state problem, but also a national concern and a global example of future issues resulting from climate change. A diverse group of partners, including the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act, are working to slow land loss and rebuild wetlands across Louisiana’s coast through large-scale restoration projects and public outreach.

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How YOU CAN Help:

  1. Participate in a wetland restoration plan. Contribute your professional expertise or elbow grease through wetland clean-ups, replanting, and other activities [1]. 
  2. Become involved in local government actions that affect wetlands. You can request to receive the agenda of project planning meetings and copies of documents covering any restoration issues [1].
  3. Speak out for protection for Louisiana’s coast and coastal wetlands, marshes, cheniers and barrier islands to your elected officials. Let them know the coast has a voting constituency [1].
  4. Observe development practices in Louisiana’s coastal zone to determine if erosion and pollution control is effective and report violations to city and county officials [1].
  5. Encourage neighbors, developers and state and local governments to protect wetlands in your watershed resolutions, ordinances, and laws [1].
  6. Learn more about wetland restoration activities in your area; seek and support opportunities to restore degraded wetlands. You can even obtain technical and financial assistance if you wish to restore wetlands on your property [1].

More ways to Help!

 

Click a Link Below for further reading!

Isle de Jean Charles Official Website

Reclaiming Native Ground

Loyola Center for Environmental Communication

LSU: Climate Change: What will it mean for Louisiana’s Coastal Fisheries?

PRI: Louisiana’s Coastline is disappearing at the rate of a football field an hour

Scientific American: Losing Ground: Southeast Louisiana is Disappearing, Quickly

Climate Refugees Film

Louisiana Fights the Sea, and loses

 

Sources:

[1] America’s Wetland Foundation: Campaign to Save Coastal Louisiana. 14 May 2018. http://www.americaswetlandresources.com/index.html

[2] Davenport, Coral and Robertson, Campell. “Resettling the first American Climate Refugees”. 14 May 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/us/resettling-the-first-american-climate-refugees.html

[3] Johnson, Chevel. “As Louisiana Shrings State Paying to Move Residents”. 14 May 2018, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/03/21/as-louisiana-island-shrinks-state-paying-to-move-residents.html

[4] Lenferna, Alex. “Don’t Celebrate the U.S. for Protecting Climate “Refugees”. 14 May 2018, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-lenferna-climate-refugees_us_5aa92f40e4b001c8bf15db8f

[5] Marshall, Bob. “Losing Ground:Southeast Lousiana Is Disapperaing Quickly”. 14 May 2018, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/losing-ground-southeast-louisiana-is-disappearing-quickly/#

[6] Reckdahl, Katy. “Losing Louisiana”. 14 May 2018, http://stories.weather.com/story/5931

[7] Stelfox, Hilary. “250 million people will be climate change refugees by 2050, predicts Huddersfield University academic”. https://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/250-million-people-climate-change-10664041

[8] Featured Image: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-releases-detailed-global-climate-change-projections

 

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Bio-Engineered Oyster Reef Demonstration (LA-08)

LA-08

Purpose:

The purpose of this project is to test a new, bio-engineered, product to address rapid shoreline retreat and wetland loss along the Gulf of Mexico Shoreline in areas with soils of low load bearing capacity. For example, at Rockefeller Refuge, the direct Gulf of Mexico frontage and extremely low soil load bearing capacity (250-330psf), coupled with an average shoreline retreat of 30.9 ft/yr, present unique engineering challenges with a subsequent direct loss of emergent saline marsh.

Restoration Strategy:

The goal of this demonstration project is to evaluate the proposed technique as a cost effective technique for protecting areas of Coastal Louisiana’s Gulf of Mexico Shoreline with poor load bearing capacities.The demonstration project would consist of an Oysterbreak, approximately 1000′ long. The Oysterbreak is a light-weight, modular shore protection device that uses accumulating biomass (an oyster reef) to dissipate wave energy. The bio-engineered structure is designed to grow rapidly into an open structured oyster reef utilizing specifically designed structural components with spat attractant (agricultural byproducts) and enhanced nutrient conditions conducive to rapid oyster growth.

Required Monitoring: [1]

  • Topographic and bathymetric surveys (elevation, water levels)
  • Ground-level photography
  • Aerial photography
  • Wave attenuation (wave energy effects)
  • Oyster and Water quality monitoring

The Oysterbreak is constructed by placing modular units into an open interlocked configuration. The units are sized to be stable under storm wave conditions. The height and width of the Oysterbreak are designed to achieve a moderate initial wave energy reduction. As successive generations of encrusting organisms settle on the Oysterbreak, the structure’s ability to dissipate wave energy increases.

Location:

The project is located along the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge Gulf of Mexico shoreline west of Joseph Harbor canal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

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Project Effectiveness: [2]

The oysterbreaks are providing habitat for oyster settlement and the top layers of rings should be the most likely to support oyster colonies. Recommended improvements include:

  • Types of cement applications
  • Lessening the space available for coastal erosion (the gap between coast and oysterbreaks needs to reduce to prevent further erosion).
  • Crest elevation between the oysterbreaks performed well in wave attenuation and shoreline erosion
  • Increase the height of the structure to improve wave breaking potential

aerial_rings

Progress to Date:

The cooperative agreement between the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources has been executed. Construction was finalized in February 2012. This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 17.

More Information on this Project:

Further Websites Regarding Oyster Reef Restoration:

 

 

Work Cited:

[1] McGinnis and Pontiff. (pages 4-6) LA-08 2012 Operations, Maintenance, and Monitoring Plan, 30 April 2018, https://www.lacoast.gov/reports/project/4224379~1.pdf

[2] McGinnis and Pontiff. (page 22) 2014 Operations, Maintenance, and Monitoring Report for Bioengineered Oyster Reef Demonstration Project (LA-08)

 

 

Pass Chaland to Grand Bayou Pass Barrier Shoreline Restoration (BA-35)

Above image from lacoast.gov

Reasons for Restoration:

Prior to construction, wetlands, dune, and swale habitats within the project area had undergone substantial loss due to subsidence, absolute sea-level rise, and marine- and wind induced shoreline erosion. In addition, oil and gas activities, such as pipeline construction, also contributed to the loss.

Marine processes acting on the abandoned deltaic headlands rework and redistribute previously deposited sediment. Fragmentary islands develop due to breaches in the barrier headland. Subsequently, increased tidal prism storage (the total volume of salt water that moves in and out of a bay with the tide) and storm-related impacts have led to inlet and pass formation across the newly formed islands. The Bay Joe Wise beach rim was receded and decreased to a critical width that was susceptible to breaching.

Land area in the project area had decreased from 1932 to 2000. Storms occur approximately every 8.3 years along the Barataria shoreline. Because approximately 100 feet of shoreline is eroded with each storm, shorelines of 100 feet or less are considered in imminent danger of breaching.

Restoration Strategies:

The project’s objectives were: 1) preventing the breaching of the Bay Joe Wise shoreline by increasing barrier shoreline width; 2) increasing back-barrier, emergent marsh area by some 226 acres to maintain the barrier shoreline; and 3) creating emergent marsh suitable for tidal aquatic habitats.

The Project features included a constructed beach and dune platform along approximately 2.7 miles of the gulf shoreline. Constructed landward of the beach and dune was a marsh platform with an average width of 860 feet spanning the entire project length. A water exchange channel was incorporated on the western end of the Project to facilitate flushing of Bay Joe Wise through Pass Chaland. The Project created over 420 acres requiring 2.95 million cubic yards of fill dredged from ebb shoal borrow areas. Other project features included installation of sand fencing concurrent with dune construction, dune and marsh vegetative plantings, and post-construction gapping of retention dikes.

FP_BA-35_Banner map.png Above image from lacoast.gov

Location:

The project is located in the Barataria Basin, between Pass Chaland and Grand Bayou Pass in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 11.

 

Source: 

Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force “Pass Chaland to Grand Bayou Pass Barrier Shoreline Restoration (BA-35)”. 2 March 2018, https://www.lacoast.gov/reports/gpfs/BA-35.pdf.

Soil Biology

Soil biology may be considered the most important component of soil health and production [1]. Soil food web’s have tiny, microscopic organisms; also known as microorganisms. These living creatures may be tiny, but they live as very large populations in the soil, and other natural environments like water, air, and plants roots.

Soil_Food_Web

The Four Main Microorganism Groups of Soil:

  1. Soil Bacteria (mostly decomposers) [2].
  2. Soil Fungi
  3. Soil Protozoa (feed mostly on bacteria) [4].
  4. Soil Nematodes (feed on plants, bacteria, fungi, and/or other nematodes) [5].

The other two main groups of Soil Biology:

  1. Soil Arthropods (have no backbone) [6].
  2. Soil Earthworms

Soil Organisms

Microorganisms help bind soil together, which helps clean the soil and hold water for plant life. In ecosystems like wetlands, diverse communities of bacteria can help plants fight off harmful diseases. A major benefit of soil microorganisms is the decomposition of dead plant and animal life, along with the breakdown and creation of nutrients.

Advantages of Soil Organisms: [1, 10].

  • Create healthy nutrients for plants
  • Improve Soil Health and quality (nutrient rich, water holding capacity)
  • Fight off diseases for plants
  • Degrade human-caused pollutants (fertilizers, pesticides used in agriculture)
  • Benefit the food-web as a whole
  • Improve plant health and longevity
  • Microbiomes transform dead plant materials into soil organic matter

The living organisms of the soil provide the requirements needed to support plant, animal, and human life. You can support healthy microorganism communities in soil by: 

  • decreasing or preventing plowing and tilling in garden and agriculture fields [9].
  • plant cover crops to reduce soil erosion and funnel carbon into the atmosphere [9].
  • conserving microbes that provide biomass to plants
  • incorporate soil health management systems into your daily practices [10]
  • protect the soil from weather applying mulch / and or cover crops
  • proper composting

Interesting Facts draft2

Work Cited:
[1] Effective Microorganisms of New Zealand, https://www.emnz.com/article/soil-health-series-soil-microbes
[2] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Soil Bacteria”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053862
[3] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Food Web & Soil Health”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053865
[4] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Soil Protozoa”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053867
[5] Ingham, Elaine R.  “Soil Nematodes”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053866
[6] Moldenke, Andrew R. “Soil Arthropods”. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053861
[7] Pollard, Peter. (27 March 2018) "Microbes and the Missing Carbon Dioxide". Tedx Noosa, [Video File], https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48UtbgtFKTg 
[8] USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service “Soil Food Web”. 26 March 2018, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/soils/health/biology/ 
[9] Wallenstein, Matthew. "To Restore Our Soils, Feed The Microbes". The Conservation, 27 March 2018, https://theconversation.com/to-restore-our-soils-feed-the-microbes-79616
[10] Zimmerman, Chuck. "General Mills Backing Soil Health Program". Ag-Wired, 27 March 2018, http://agwired.com/2017/04/26/general-mills-backing-soil-health-program/
[11] Pollard, Peter. (27 March 2018) "Microbes and the Missing Carbon Dioxide". Tedx Noosa, [Video File], https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48UtbgtFKTg

 

New Orleans Landbridge Shoreline Stabilization & Marsh Creation (PO-169)

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Since 1956, approximately 110 acres of marsh has been lost along
the east shore of Lake Pontchartrain between Hospital Road and
the Greens Ditch. One of the greatest influences of marsh loss in
the area can be attributed to tropical storm impacts. Wetland losses
were accelerated by winds and storm surge caused by Hurricane
Katrina, which converted approximately 70 acres of interior marsh
to open water. Stabilizing the shoreline and protecting the
remaining marsh would protect natural coastal resources dependent
on this important estuarine lake, communities that thrive on those
resources, the Fort Pike State Historical Site, and infrastructure
including U.S. Highway 90. USGS land change analysis
determined a loss rate of -0.35% per year for the 1984 -2011
period of analysis. Subsidence in this unit is relatively low and is
estimated at 0-1foot/century (Coast 2050).

Lake Pontchartrain supports a large number of wintering
waterfowl. Various gulls, terns, herons, egrets, and rails can be
found using habitats associated with Lake Pontchartrain, which has
been designated as an Important Bird Area by the American Bird
Conservancy. Restoring these marshes will protect the Orleans
Landbridge and will help to protect fish and wildlife trust resources
dependent on these marsh habitats, particularly at-risk species and
species of conservation concern such as the black rail, reddish
egret, brown pelican, mottled duck, seaside sparrow, king rail, and
the Louisiana eyed silkmoth.

Borrow material will be dredged from areas within Lakes St.
Catherine and Pontchartrain to create 169 acres and nourish 102
acres of brackish marsh. Containment dikes will be constructed
around four marsh creation areas to retain sediment during
pumping. The lake shorelines will be enhanced with an earthen
berm to add additional protection from wind induced wave fetch.
Containment dikes that are not functioning as shoreline
enhancement will be degraded and/or gapped. Vegetative plantings are
proposed including five rows along the crown and two rows
along the front slope of the shoreline protection berm, as well as
within the marsh platform area.

po169_20150305

The project is located in Region 1, Pontchartrain Basin,
Orleans Parish, flanking U.S. Highway 90 along the east shore of
Lake Pontchartrain and areas surrounding Lake St. Catherine.

This project was approved for Phase I Engineering and Design in
January 2015.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 24.

The New Orleans Landbridge Shoreline Stabilization & Marsh Creation sponsors include:

 

 

Bayou Dupont Sediment Delivery – Marsh Creation and Terracing

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Wetlands in the Barataria Basin were historically nourished
by the fresh water, sediment and nutrients delivered by
the Mississippi River and its many distributary channels.
These sediment and nutrient inputs ceased following the
creation of levees along the lower river for flood control and
navigation. In addition, the construction of numerous oil and
gas canals along with subsurface oil and gas withdrawal has
exacerbated wetland loss in the area. From 1932 to 1990, the
Barataria Basin lost over 245,000 acres of marsh. From 1978
to 1990, the area experienced the highest rate of wetland loss
in coastal Louisiana.

The primary goal of this project is to create and nourish
approximately 144 acres of emergent intermediate marsh
using sediment from the Mississippi River, and constructing
9,679 linear feet of terraces. The proposed project includes
dredging sediment from the Mississippi River for marsh
creation by pumping the sediment via pipeline into an area of
open water and broken marsh. The proximity of the project
to the Mississippi River provides a prime opportunity to
utilize this renewable river sediment resource. The strategy
includes utilizing the access route and infrastructure
previously put into place for the BA-39 project. This project
will complement existing restoration projects in the area.

ba164_Revised FS Map

CWPPRA Region 2, Barataria Basin, Jefferson and
Plaquemines Parishes. The general project area is about 10
miles south of Belle Chasse, LA and is west of LA Hwy
23 and north of the Myrtle Grove Marina. The project
is immediately adjacent to the completed CWPPRA
Mississippi River Sediment Delivery System – Bayou
Dupont (BA-39) project.

The project was approved for engineering and design at the
January 24, 2013 Task Force meeting. The E&D was
completed in the fall of 2014 and sponsors requested phase
2 funding at the January 22, 2015 Task Force meeting,
however, there was insufficient money available to fund
the entire project. In order to take advantage of the existing
mobilization of the Long Distance Sediment Pipeline
(LDSP) Project, the sponsors proposed to reduce the scope
of the project to fit within the available CWPPRA funding.
The Task Force approved the reduced scope Phase 2 funding
request at the May 14, 2015, Task Force meeting. The asbuilt
project features include 144 acres of marsh creation and
9,679 linear feet of terracing.

In addition, CPRA increased the marsh creation feature of
the project by utilizing contingency funding left over from
BA-43, thereby increasing the total marsh creation in the
area to an estimated 296 acres. Construction started in April
2016, and marsh creation was completed in November
2016. Terracing was completed in June 2017, and vegetative
plantings for the terraces are scheduled for the spring of
2018.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 22.

The Bayou Dupont Sediment Delivery – Marsh Creation and Terracing sponsors include:

 

West Fourchon Creation & Nourishment Marsh

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The primary causes of land loss in the project area are oil
and gas canals, subsidence, and sediment deprivation, which
have resulted in an estimated rate of -0.41% per year based
on hyper-temporal analysis conducted by USGS for the
extended project boundary for the years 1984 to 2012.
Bounded by Bayou Lafourche to the east and Timbalier Bay
to the west the project area is also subject to shoreline
erosion.

This project would create 302 acres of saline inter-tidal marsh
and nourish 312 acres of emergent marsh using material
dredged from the Gulf of Mexico, southwest of the project
area. Earthen containment dikes will be constructed along
the project boundary to contain the material. Vegetative
plantings are planned at a 50% density, with half planned at
TY1 and half planned at TY3 if necessary. Containment
dikes will be degraded or gapped by TY3 to allow access for
estuarine organisms. Funding will be set aside for the
creation of tidal creeks if needed. This project, along with
TE-23 West Belle Pass Headland Restoration and TE-52
West Belle Pass Barrier Headland Restoration, will help
stabilize the edge of the marshes and protect Port Fourchon
from the west. The initial construction elevation is +2.4 feet
NAVD 88; after settlement, marsh is expected to be +1.4
NAVD 88.

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The project is located in Region 3, Terrebonne Basin, in
Lafourche Parish.

This project was approved for Phase I Engineering and
Design in January 2015.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 24.

The West Fourchon Creation & Nourishment Marsh sponsors include: