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].

delta compare 2.png

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.

la basins 3

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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Rockefeller Refuge Gulf Shoreline Stabilization (ME-18)

wordpress fact sheet banner ME-18-01

The project is designed to address Rockefeller Wildlife
Refuge gulf shoreline retreat that averages approximately
46 feet/year with a subsequent direct loss of emergent saline
marsh.

The project will construct shoreline protection along the Gulf
of Mexico. A rock breakwater with lightweight aggregate
core will be tied into the west bank of Joseph Harbor
and constructed westward along the gulf shoreline for
approximately 3 miles. The structure is designed to reduce
shoreline retreat along this stretch of gulf shoreline, as well
as promote shallowing, settling out, and natural vegetative
colonization of the overwash material landward of the
breakwater. Gaps will be constructed between breakwater
segments to facilitate material and organism linkages.

ME-18 Map

The project is located along the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge
Gulf of Mexico shoreline from Joseph’s Harbor canal,
westward 3 miles in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

Engineering and design are complete. Construction on this
project has begun.

This project is listed on Priority Project List 10.

The Sponsors for this project include:

The Mississippi River Deltaic Cycle

Water flows downhill naturally and, over time, will make a river change from one path to another. As sediment moved and elevations changed over the last 7 millennia, the Mississippi River has emptied into several historic delta complexes: Maringouin, Teche, St. Bernard, Lafourche, Plaquemines-Balize, and Atchafalaya. Each of the deltas built up part of Louisiana’s coast to what we see today, but now that natural process has been interrupted [1]. After the great Mississippi flood of 1927 that caused $1 billion worth of damages (almost $1 trillion in today’s dollars), the US Army Corps of Engineers built the world’s longest levee system under the Flood Control Act of 1928. The Levee system was constructed to reduce flood damages and allow for more control of the Mississippi [2].

Image 1: Historic Deltas of the Mississippi River

An unforeseen and unfavorable side effect to taming the river was that all the water is kept moving too quickly to deposit sediment, and now sediment is lost to the Gulf of Mexico rather than deposited into our coastal wetlands [3]. Our Louisiana coastline is dependent on new sediment to nourish wetland ecosystems. Without sediment delivery, there is no material for natural land gain or replenishment, which will continue to contribute to our retreating coastline. The solution is not as simple as removing the levee system, however, since so much of Louisiana is populated now, and removing the levees containing the Mississippi would displace millions of residents from their homes. Instead, CWPPRA and our partners in restoration use man-made systems to create marsh, nourish wetlands, and maintain hydrologic connectivity so that we can protect and restore Louisiana’s coast.

 

 

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

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mississippi_Flood_of_1927

[3] http://mississippiriverdelta.org/our-coastal-crisis/wasted-sediment/

Image 1 from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/photo/miss-delta-formation/

Featured image from https://phys.org/news/2015-04-future-mississippi-delta.html

Prothonotary Warblers

 

As April passes into May, many migratory birds leave the tropics of Central and South America in search of bountiful summer resources in the sub-tropical United States. Among them, the very charismatic Prothonotary Warbler flies from the northern tropics to the hospitable habitats of the United States. Prothonotary warblers live in forests near bodies of slow-moving water where they can hunt for insects and nest in cavities in trees. The cypress swamps of Louisiana are about as good as it gets for a prothonotary warbler, and they stay from April to August. [1] If you get out into the swamp during the summer, look for their bright yellow figures darting through low-lying foliage.

Prothonotary warblers have experienced a population decline in recent years that experts attributed to the destruction of their wintering habitat in the tropics.[2] To improve breeding success and survivorship, the Audubon Society and other ornithological enthusiasts have encouraged people to install nest boxes that help to protect warbler nests from failing. Many natural threats exist in swamps for warblers, including a variety of snakes, birds of prey, and mammals. Since brown-headed cowbirds will use prothonotary nests to lay their eggs in when given the chance, nest boxes are suggested to have a 1¼“ hole to prevent larger birds from entering the box but still allow the warblers to enter. Boxes are not left on the ground, and are often mounted on poles. Some predators can climb, so many boxes have a skirt/collar that prevents snakes, raccoons, and cats from climbing the poles into the nests. More guidelines for a good nest box can be found at https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/features-of-a-good-birdhouse/.

 

 

[1] Petit, L. J. (1999). Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.408

[2] Kaufman, Kenn. “Prothonotary Warbler.” Audubon, National Audubon Society, 10 Mar. 2016, http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/prothonotary-warbler.

Featured Image:

Brannon, Peter. “Adult Male.” All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Florida, 14 Sept. 2016, http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Prothonotary_Warbler/id.

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.

pic_LA_08

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)

 

 

Bayou Teche Black Bear Festival 2018

The Bayou Teche Black Bear Festival took place on Friday April 20th and Saturday April 21, 2018 (10:30 AM – 5:30 PM) in Franklin, Louisiana.

Making its first debut in 2004 with its mission to “be the development of an eco-friendly environment for the endangered black bear population that resides in St. Mary Parish” [1].

The Goals of the Festival Include [1]:

  • Raising awareness by educating residents of the Louisiana black bear population and its environment in St. Mary Parish
  • Assisting with the development of recreational opportunities at the Bayou Teche Wildlife Refuge
  • Developing and cultivating an appreciation and respect for the environment
  • Providing another opportunity for economic development in St. Mary Parish

Residents from all around the parish including natives of Louisiana and out of state visitors enjoyed the beautiful weather along the Bayou Teche.

teche peep.jpg

CWPPRA’s public outreach team, arrived on the morning of April 21st in the Historic District of Franklin. Community events included, a color run, jambalaya cook-off, wooden boat show, live and digital music, along with multiple food and service vendors for the Bayou Teche Black Bear Festival.

Residents were able to park downtown, then walk to which ever event or vendor they prefer. Families of all shapes and sizes were offered fresh food, hand crafted items, educational literature, and free music.

CWPPRA was fortunate enough to table next to the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge in which had a wildlife display with a corn snake, soft shell turtle, small American alligator, and other fresh water turtles like the red-eared slider.

brian peeps.jpg

CWPPRA made an impact talking with the public about their experiences with wetland restoration and flooding. We met residents from places like Golden Meadow, LA —  Wisconsin, and many local residents of Franklin.

Materials Included:

  • Protect our coast posters
  • Henri Heron’s Activity Book
  • Watermarks Magazines
  • Understanding CWPPRA
  • CWPPRA’s Partners in Restoration Booklet
  • Coastal Wetland Restoration: Resident’s Guide

out peeps.jpg

CWPPRA would like to thank the Bayou Teche Black Bear Festival for hosting the event this year, and to the residents who participated in the Festival.

 

Work Cited:

[1] Bayou Teche Black Bear Festival, 24 April 2018, http://www.bayoutechebearfest.org/index.html.

 

 

Levee Systems in Louisiana

As flooding events continue to increase in frequency and intensity, it is essential for the State of Louisiana to continue moving forward in technology and ingenuity for the construction of levee systems.

Since 1718 natural and man-made levee systems in Louisiana have been crucial in attempt to control the “Mighty Mississippi”. The Mississippi River drains 41% of the continental U.S. and more than half of Louisiana’s land is in a flood plain [1]. Therefore, careful planning, construction and maintenance of levee systems in Louisiana must continue to improve.

What is a levee?

According to the Federal Emergency and Management Authority (FEMA) a levee is a “man-made design and construction in accordance with sound engineering practices to contain, control, or divert the flow of water to provide protection from temporary flooding [2].

Some History on levees:

Before European control, natural processes occurred along the Mississippi River in which sediment deposits created natural levees reaching up to a meter or two in height. [3]. Initially, state government required that farmers and land owners build their own levees with ~10-12 cubic yards per day and reaching 75 feet long in some areas [4].

Today, with multiple Acts by the United States Congress, levee systems are professionally implemented by multiple entities to promote control and prevent flooding.

Who is Involved:

There is no one entity solely responsible for levee construction and maintenance in Louisiana [2].  Some entities that share the responsibility include but are not limited to the following:

levee districts

Current Programs including Levee Development and Planning:

Necessary Plans for the Future:

The Louisiana Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast 2017 calls for project  “construction of a levee to an elevation of 15-35 feet around the Greater New Orleans area from Verret to the Bonnet Carre spillway” [5].

La_pic

Incremental Improvements recommended by David Muth (A Director of National Wildlife and Fisheries) include [5]:

  • Levee resilience
  • Increased water storage capacity inside levees
  • Public incentive to participate in building raising or relocation programs
  • Restoring the wetland buffers outside levee

A Plan in the year 2009 from Netherland Engineers to CPRA recommended the following [5]:

  • Raising levees to protect from a 500 year event or greater around central New Orleans
  • Raising levees to 1,000-year levels east of the Industrial Canal and on the West Bank.
  • Recommended a new levee and gates along the New Orleans land bridge, into St. Tammany Parish.

netherlands_rec

As flooding events continue to increase in frequency and intensity, it is essential for the State of Louisiana to continue moving forward in ingenuity for flood prevention, policy, planning, funding, and coastal restoration efforts.

Additional Links regarding Levees:

 

Work Cited:

[1] ALBL. “Association of Levee Boards of Louisiana”. 24 April 2018, http://albl.org/

[2] FEMA, “Levees – Frequently Asked Questions”.  24 April 2018, https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1803-25045-4819/st_broomelv.pdf

[3] Kemp, Katherine “The Louisiana Environment: The Mississippi Levee System and the Old River Control Structure”. 24 April 2018, http://www.tulane.edu/~bfleury/envirobio/enviroweb/FloodControl.htm

[4] Rogers, David. “Evolution of the Levee System Along the Lower Mississippi River”. 24 April 2018, http://web.mst.edu/~rogersda/levees/Evolution%20of%20the%20Levee%20System%20Along%20the%20Mississippi.pdf

[5] Schleifstein, Mark. “New Orleans area’s upgraded levees not enough for next “Katrina” engineers say”. 24 April 2018, http://www.nola.com/futureofneworleans/2015/08/new_levees_inadequate_for_next.html