Looking Back

Former President George H.W. Bush signed Public Law 101-646, Title III CWPPRA into law in 1990 to combat the national issue of coastal land loss. Over 25 years after he left office and a week after the late President’s day of mourning, this legislation is still providing protection to billions of dollars’ worth of industry, major human settlements, and beautiful ecosystems.

At 28 years of projects and counting, CWPPRA is among the longest-standing federally-funded restoration ventures in the country, as well as one of the most successful. To date, 210 projects have been authorized across Louisiana’s coastal zone to restore 100,000+ acres of wetlands. Each year of operation, CWPPRA has approved funding on multiple projects scattered across our coast. The locations of our projects can be found at https://lacoast.gov/new/About/Basins.aspx.

CWPPRA projects are proposed by anyone and developed in conjunction with one of our 5 federal managing agencies and Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. The process of project selection is always a rigorous competition between candidate projects across Louisiana’s coast. Each proposal presents estimated ecological benefits, cost estimates, and a detailed plan for the desired project. At the beginning of each calendar year, Regional Planning Team meetings are held across the coast to hear proposals. The proposed projects are compiled into an annual Project Priority List (PPL). Upcoming proposal meetings can be found Jan 29-31, 2019 on our calendar at https://lacoast.gov/calendar/. Over the next year the CWPPRA Technical Committee and Task Force narrow the list of candidate projects. In December, the Technical Committee recommends their top 4 projects to the Task Force. The Task Force finally votes in January on the 4 projects they will fund for Phase I Engineering and Design. This annual cycle will complete its 28th round in late January 2019.

CWPPRA is excited about wrapping up PPL 28 next month and starting on PPL 29! Be on the lookout for announcements about projects chosen for funding at the January 24th Task Force meeting. We look forward to continuing our efforts to #ProtectOurCoast!

 

Featured image from https://projects.propublica.org/louisiana/

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America Recycles And So Do We

Recycling is a great practice at home, but it reaches far beyond taking materials out of the waste stream. Tomorrow, November 15th, is designated as America Recycles Day, so today’s Wetland Wednesday is hopeful about the future of sustainability.

New materials require exploration and processing that can be destructive to ecosystems. Plastics, some of the most common materials in the product stream today, are largely recyclable. As a crude oil byproduct, producing new usable plastics requires a lot of energy. The same goes for many other recyclable materials. Paper products, various metals, and glass all take a lot of energy to produce, then they quickly find their way into landfills instead of being reused. Landfills produce a wide array of chemicals that often leach into the ground due to poor containment practices, and they can contaminate watersheds. Once those chemicals get into a watershed, they can significantly decrease the health of wetlands across huge swaths of land over time. To further the polluting effects, drilling for oil to meet a growing desire for fossil fuels is one of the most detrimental practices to wetlands. More than 5 years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana wetlands continued to lose ground due to the spill’s impact. [1]

Recycling is not a perfect alternative to single-use plastics, and there are other ways to reduce our consumption of resources. For example, mitigating loss of byproducts by finding new and inventive applications can greatly reduce consequences. Large-scale food manufacturing leaves plenty of byproduct as leftover plant material that can be used as livestock feed, potentially as biofuels, or fertilizer. In the meat industry, byproducts are often further processed and commercialized to maximize the use of all parts of animals. CWPPRA and our partners have changed some practices in recent years to be more efficient when using resources, for example beneficial use of dredged material (yes, we recycled our header image). Mandatory dredging of shipping and navigational channels produces a bounty of sediment that was lost in the past, but we can now use that material in restoration projects. This exciting new practice has already been implemented in a few CWPPRA projects to restore marshland and nourish pre-existing wetlands.

Our coast faces many human-caused threats, and its future depends, in part, on practices becoming more sustainable. By using new technologies to better use resources, CWPPRA hopes that Louisiana’s natural splendor and resilience can continue to benefit future generations.

[1] https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70178409

 

Coastal Permitting and Mitigation

With the United States midterm elections coming up, this week’s Wetland Wednesday focuses on the roles of government in coastal restoration, specifically permitting and mitigation. Of course, each coastal parish has their own government and representatives, and the State of Louisiana has dedicated offices for coastal restoration.

Anyone who wants to construct a restoration project in the coastal zone must go through the State of Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to obtain the proper permitting, most commonly a Coastal Use Permit. [1] The DNR requires all who apply for a coastal use permit to prove that they have sufficiently addressed the need for environmental damage mitigation. CWPPRA-funded projects are permitted through this office because they have sufficient positive environmental impact. Our engineers and managers must prove that they have done the necessary surveys and sustainable development plans. Other coastal uses that require permitting include dock construction, dredging and infilling, and oil well capping and abandonment.

All permits are distributed with the intent of preserving net ecosystem integrity, meaning that if there is a large impact at the project location, damage mitigation measures are required. Recent legislation at the state level has been moving toward the idea of “Environmental Banking”, [2] which would allow developers to invest in the coastal zone, providing funds for restoration and earning credits that can be cashed in for mitigation needs. This process would get dollars on the ground in advance to help fund restoration. Since local damage is so common in development, environmental bank investors must invest in the bank that deals with the zone they will want to develop.

CWPPRA was enacted in 1990 to minimize coastal land loss. One of the most important goals of our projects is to provide a net benefit to the local environment. Legislation and permitting allow us to do this vital work, and we appreciate the efforts in Louisiana toward responsible coastal use. We hope everyone, both in government and the larger public, continues to view coastal land loss as a serious threat to the economy, ecosystems, and civilization.

[1] http://www.dnr.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=pagebuilder&tmp=home&pid=85&ngid=5

[2] http://www.jmbcompanies.com/Services/Mitigation/mitigation-banking-environmental

Planning for Coastal Changes Together

The Louisiana Coastal Master Plan strategically plans restoration and risk reduction projects for the current and future Louisiana coast. This state-wide plan is updated every 6-years and focuses on a 50-year view which “coordinates Louisiana’s local, state, and federal responses to land loss, and potential threats from hurricanes and storm surge events” [2]. The Master Plan was developed by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and models scientific data through different scenarios to determine which projects have priority. CPRA represents the State of Louisiana and contributes 15% of costs for Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) projects. Since all CWPPRA projects are partially funded by the state of Louisiana, then all CWPPRA projects must be consistent with the Coastal Master Plan.

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The Louisiana Coastal Master Plan is an example for communities around the world who are facing coastal land loss at home. For example there is a recent partnership agreement between the Dutch research institute Deltares and the  Water Institute of the Gulf in Baton Rouge. Therefore both institutions can benefit and contribute to the planning being done to preserve Louisiana coastal wetlands. Other areas facing coastal land loss, like Singapore, Indonesia, and Canada also have an interest in the work being done in Louisiana and the Netherlands [1]. By working together, communities in Louisiana and elsewhere can adapt to and protect changing coasts.

Click here to learn more about Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan.

Click here to learn about your flood zone in Louisiana.

Sources:

[1] Roberts, Faimon. Louisiana institute, Dutch research group launch partnership to study water issues. Available: https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/environment/article_35247102-635a-11e7-9176-9f60e4fab282.html [July 31, 2018].

[2] The Louisiana Coastal Master Plan. Available:http://coastal.la.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2017-Coastal-Master-Plan_Web-Book_CFinal-with-Effective-Date-06092017.pdf [July 31, 2018].

Ocean Fest 2018

In acknowledgment of World Oceans Day (June 8, 2018)  Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (New Orleans) celebrated with their annual Ocean Fest event on Saturday, June 9th. World Ocean Day is an opportunity to recognize how healthy oceans impact our food, the air we breathe, our climate, and many other aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, our oceans face many challenges.

Families, couples, and individuals from across the state and around the world learned about ocean creatures, current ocean problems such as microplastics, and even a bit about Louisiana Wetlands. They had the chance to talk with people from the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program and LSU Sea Grant, learning both how the oceans support them and how they can better support the oceans.

0609181057CWPPRA Outreach staff were set up in the Mississippi River area and had a hands-on learning activity- the Mysterious Wetland Wonders. People of all ages had to guess which Louisiana wetland organism was inside the box only by feeling with their hands and reading clues — Of course none of the items were alive! — but each represented an influential component of Louisiana wetlands, from invasive nutria which destroy marsh to bald cypress trees which are important economically and for wildlife habitat.

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CWPPRA Outreach staff also had materials like the Protect Our Coast posters, stickers, and activity books available for the public, as well as literature about CWPPRA and recent issues of Watermarks. Citizens who had never heard of CWPRPA learned our mission in constructing projects that protect and restore wetlands and barrier islands in coastal Louisiana. CWPPRA projects may focus on land, but the connections between the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi and other rivers in Louisiana, coastal wetlands, and the communities that depend on those areas mean that each is an important part of what happens to the others.

Coastwide Vegetative Planting (LA-39)

 

The coastal restoration community has long recognized the benefits of vegetative plantings in restoration. Many marsh creation and most terracing projects require plantings to insure success. Coastal shoreline plantings have also proven to be very effective and some have demonstrated the ability to not only stop shoreline erosion but to facilitate accretion, the process of increasing sediments. Recent hurricane events have exposed a need to have a mechanism in place where large-scale planting efforts can be deployed in a timely manner to specifically targeted areas of need, anywhere along the coast. Although the CWPPRA program can fund specific largescale planting projects, the normal program cycle for individual projects can delay needed restoration plantings for a number of years.

The goals of this project are to facilitate a consistent and responsive planting effort in coastal Louisiana that is flexible enough to routinely plant on a large scale and be able to rapidly respond to critical areas of need following storm or other damaging events. This project set up an advisory panel consisting of representatives from various state and federal agencies who would assist in the selection of projects for funding. The project also set up a mechanism by which project nominations would be submitted for consideration. The equivalent of 90 acres of interior marsh and 40,000 linear feet of coastal shoreline will be planted per year over a 10 year period to effectively create/protect a total of 779 net acres of marsh over the 20-year project life.

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The project features are located in the coastal zone of Louisiana.

This project is on Priority Project List 20. Three sites have been planted with Year One funding, and three sites are scheduled to be planted in 2014 with Year Two funding.

 

Federal Sponsor: NRCS

Local Sponsor: CPRA

Moving Land: Erosion and Sediments

Land loss and land gain are terms we throw around a lot at CWPPRA but what do they mean? Where does the old land go and where does the new land come from? To answer that, we need to understand that “land” is made of inorganic particles that we call sediment and various types of organic matter. Sand, clay, gravel, boulders, and silt are all types of sediment, and grain size is how we classify them. [1] For example, a boulder is larger than gravel, which is larger than a grain of sand, which is larger than a silt particle, etc. Sediment size influences how each grain experiences force and inertia, which leads to different rates of land loss and gain between sediments. Imagine holding a handful of sand in one hand and a handful of gravel in the other. Now imagine you blow as hard as you can on each one. More gravel would stay in your hand than sand. The same is true of sediment in water- smaller grains of sand can be picked up more easily by the forces acting on them than the gravel can.

Erosion detaches sediment from an original source, such as a cliff face or the middle of a valley. Over long periods of time, eroded particles get smaller and smaller, eventually degrading to sand or silt, depending on the mineral base. Once they get into a river or stream, their movement is connected to water flow. When water flows faster or stronger, it “suspends” and carries more sediment, while sediments in slower currents tend to settle out and “deposit” on the bottom of the lake, bayou, or swamp. Approximately 40% of the USA drains through the Mississippi River, and any suspended sediment in those waterways travels through Louisiana on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. [2]

Sediments move downstream differently depending on their size class.

Wetlands are defined by sediment type and other characteristics including salinity. In Louisiana, we have fresh water wetlands like swamps and bottomland hardwood forests, but also saline wetlands like salt and brackish marsh. Each of these wetlands types contains fine sediment particles, and they are all relatively new in the scope of geologic time. Because they are young, there are not many hard-packed substrates in Louisiana wetlands, but instead deeper layers of sediment that are compacting and subsiding. [3] Sediment replenishment is important to all the wetlands in Louisiana because new sediment is needed on top of compacting sediment to maintain elevations that support plant life and productive ecosystems. Unfortunately, sediments that should be replenishing the wetlands of Louisiana are not doing so. Instead, they are being transported out into the Gulf of Mexico or are trapped farther upstream behind dams. More information about this topic can be found in our post “The Mississippi River Deltaic Cycle”. Controlling the flow of the Mississippi river keeps sediments suspended for longer because water does not disperse or slow down as it naturally wants to. Without new sediment, marsh platforms lose structural integrity and they erode, leaving open water where marsh once was.

To answer the original question; for CWPPRA land loss is the process of sediment and marsh sinking or eroding into open water along Louisiana’s coastline and reducing the land available. Land gain describes the process of sediment depositing to form new platforms and it is much less common along our coast, but CWPPRA and their Partners in Restoration are working to restore the integrity of coastal wetlands by moving and capturing sediment, planting stabilizing species on terraces, and creating marsh in critical areas. Combating land loss is a multi-disciplinary effort, and we have a long fight ahead.

 

Featured image: http://amazonwaters.org/waters/river-types/whitewater-rivers/

Embedded image: http://blog.sustainability.colostate.edu/?q=schook

[1] https://www.tulane.edu/~sanelson/eens1110/sedrx.htm

[2] https://www.nps.gov/miss/riverfacts.htm

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027277140600312X