Humble Canal Hydrologic Restoration (ME-11)

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The Grand and White Lakes system has been maintained
as a fresh-to-intermediate marsh environment. This has
been accomplished through water management using
natural ridges, levees, locks, and water control structures.
This project replaces the Humble Canal structure that has
fallen into disrepair. This project is compatible with the
overall basin strategy of treating critical areas of marsh
loss within the interior of the basin and managing water
levels with structures to relieve stress on interior wetlands.
The project also relieves this area from continued saltwater
intrusion from the Mermentau River that threatens the
viability of the fresh to intermediate marshes within the
region.

The objective of this project is to restore historical
hydrology to the project area by constructing a water
control structure consisting of five 48-inch diameter by 50-
foot long corrugated aluminum pipes with flap gates and
weir drop inlets along with one 18-inch diameter
corrugated aluminum pipe with screw gate. This structure
will protect the area from Mermentau River saltwater
intrusion and allow high water to drain from the marsh to
the river. Dredging of a small waterway is included to
increase the effectiveness of the structure.

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The project is located in the Mermentau basin, on the west
bank of the Mermentau River approximately 2 miles
southwest of Grand Lake at the Humble Canal in Cameron
Parish, Louisiana.

Construction of the project was completed March 5, 2003.
The project is now in the operation and maintenance phase.

This project is on Priority Project List 8.

 

Federal Sponsor is NRCS

Local Sponsor is CPRA

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Pecan Island Terracing (ME-14)

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In the mid-1950s continuous dikes were constructed and water was pumped off the marsh, transforming it into dry pastureland. As a result of oxidation, the soil elevation has subsided 1 to 2 feet. Deterioration and loss of the perimeter levees in recent years has converted the entire area into a shallow, open water lake with a few small marsh islands resulting in a net loss of fisheries habitat.

The restoration project will reduce marsh erosion by creating emergent terraces designed to minimize wave fetch across open water and, at the same time, creating linear marsh features. Future marsh loss will be prevented and brackish marsh will be restored. Construction of the earthen terraces in shallow water areas will also convert areas of open water back to vegetated marsh creating more habitat for fish and shellfish. The project calls for constructing adjacent terrace cells in a staggered gap formation, each bordered by terraces made from dredged material. Terraces will be built and planted with smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), and California bulrush (Scirpus californicus). Plantings may also occur on the north side of the terracing area.map.jpg

 

This project is located in southeastern Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, approximately 5 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico just south of Pecan Island and Louisiana Highway 82.

The project construction was completed in August 2003, initially creating over 122 acres of emergent marsh. The monitoring plan was finalized in November 2001 and data collection has been ongoing since that time.

This project is on Priority Project List 7.

The Federal Sponsor is NOAA

The Local Sponsor is CPRA

Endangered Species

Vanishing wetlands pose a threat to species who reside in these unique habitats for all or part of their life cycle. Population decline can be caused by a variety of threats, including invasive species competition, habitat loss, and overharvesting or over-predation. There are species who rely heavily on constant or predictable conditions in specific parts of the year such as seasonal rainfall, temperature cycles, and sometimes other species who migrate for part of the year. Populations subjected to too much stress for an extended period often experience population decline as well. In some cases, those species become threatened, endangered, or even extinct.

CWPPRA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will celebrate and observe Endangered Species Day on May 17th, 2019, to celebrate and highlight the species and habitat protection efforts throughout the coast. Louisiana is home to 11 endangered species, including three species of bivalve mollusks, three species of sea turtle, two species of birds, two plants, and one fish. Of these, every single one is reliant on wetlands. All three bivalves (fat pocketbook, pink mucket, and tan riffleshell) are freshwater filter feeders who live in flowing water. They clean pollutants from the water before it reaches our coastline, improving water quality for our coastal residents. Sea turtles are among the most popular sea creatures and they rely on our coast for their nesting grounds. Leatherback (largest, deepest-diving, and most migratory), hawksbill (thickest scutes/shells), and Kemp’s ridley (smallest and rarest) feed on different creatures, but they seem to all agree on jellyfish. The two bird species on the list are the interior least tern and the red-cockaded woodpecker. Terns are fishing birds that enjoy the banks of the Mississippi River, whereas the woodpeckers utilize the upland hardwood forest ecosystems of northern Louisiana. The two plants are American chaffseed and Louisiana quillwort. Chaffseed is a semiparasite that relies on fire to proliferate in longleaf pine forests. Louisiana quillwort is a semiaquatic graminoid (grass-like plant that spends some time underwater). The lone fish species, the Pallid Sturgeon, is a ray-finned, bottom-feeding, freshwater fish that can live up to a century. They like the turbid waters of the Mississippi River and its distributaries.

Clearly, these 11 native species have adapted to Louisiana’s dynamic landscape and they each fill a different niche within their respective habitats, so a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist for their preservation. CWPPRA funds projects that help maintain or restore vital habitat for these species and the other species they rely on for food. If a species goes locally extinct, it can have a ripple effect that throws off pre-established balances throughout the ecosystem. Coastal protection has an extensive impact, protecting areas further upstream as well, so CWPPRA indirectly eases pressure on the inland species. Endangered species are one of many reasons our coast deserves to be restored and protected.

For more information about these species and other threatened and endangered species, visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s website: https://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

The featured image is from https://www.nature.org/en-us/explore/animals-we-protect/leatherback-sea-turtle/

Oysters

Oysters aren’t just delicious to eat, they are also a versatile tool to restore and protect the Louisiana coastline! Oyster reefs protect shorelines from wave energy, filter water, and improve habitat quality. Unfortunately, much of our country’s oyster production is unsustainable because of a combination of activities including over-harvesting, pollution, and habitat destruction through dredging and collection practices. As we restore oyster reefs, they will have positive environmental, economic, and cultural impacts.

In other areas of the United States, these harmful extraction methods have all but ruined the oyster industry. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, their estuary has lost more than 98 percent of its oysters with major economic consequences. [1] In Louisiana, we have not experienced nearly as much damage, so we can more readily restore our reefs. Some benefits we could gain from healthier reefs, according to our partners at BTNEP, include wave energy absorption, reduction of the Gulf Dead Zone, and improved habitat for nearly 300 species of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. By supporting oyster reefs, you support fisheries as well as resiliency. A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day, removing excess nutrients and lessening the coast’s eutrophication (nutrient pollution that leads to algal blooms) and dead zones (areas of low dissolved oxygen). [2]

Aside from the numerous important ecological benefits, the price tag for oyster reef restoration is cheaper other protection techniques. According to an article in Scientific American, the adaptation strategy of raising houses onto stilts costs more than the damages it will prevent. [3] Some of the most cost-effective protection methods cited in the article included wetland restoration (nearly a 10:1 protection to cost ratio), oyster reef restoration (just over 7:1) and barrier island restoration (about 5:1). Many of these restoration and protection strategies have been utilized by CWPPRA since the 1990s.

CWPPRA projects are synergistic approaches to protecting and restoring our coast, using the best available science to implement projects in areas of most need, as well as emphasizing cooperation between projects and their managing agencies.  Sustainable innovations in oyster reef restoration is just one way in which CWPPRA achieves its goal of wetland restoration.

[1] https://www.cbf.org/about-the-bay/more-than-just-the-bay/chesapeake-wildlife/eastern-oysters/

[2] web.archive.org/web/20170802173757/http:/www.noaa.gov/media-release/gulf-of-mexico-dead-zone-is-largest-ever-measured

[3] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/rebuilt-wetlands-can-protect-shorelines-better-than-walls/

Featured Image from https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/florida/stories-in-florida/floridas-oyster-reef-restoration-program/

 

Earth Day 2019

This past Monday, we celebrated the 48th annual Earth Day. Since the inaugural Earth Day in 1970, we have made huge strides in environmental protection and restoration but there are activities at the local, state, and federal level we can continue do to help the environment.  As we work to protect our environment, it will continue to provide us with food, clean water, protection, and recreational activities.

As an individual, you can plant native plants, pick up litter, and bike to work. At the local level, you can work with your municipal government to install green infrastructure and set up local farmers markets and composting/recycling programs. At the federal level, there are numerous organizations working towards large scale restoration projects and formulating policy that protects the environment, and regulatory agencies that make sure environmental laws are enforced. CWPPRA, made up of five federal agencies and the state of Louisiana, was signed into law specifically to reverse some of the human and natural damages across Louisiana’s coastline. At both small and large scales, our restoration and protection projects work to bolster our defenses against storm winds and wave energy.

Everyday is Earth Day for the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act as we are always working to restore our coastal wetlands. As the land loss crisis in Louisiana becomes more intense, we need to work to restore our wetlands so that they will continue to provide us with protection from storms, natural resources, and preserve our way of life. CWPPRA is committed to this mission and we hope you can join us in supporting a healthy Louisiana for generations to come. Happy Earth Day from all of us at CWPPRA.

National Volunteer Week

It’s National Volunteer Week and to celebrate, we encourage all our readers to get your hands dirty for a good cause. Joining a group of people working towards a common goal fosters a supportive community and instills a sense of pride and accomplishment. Volunteer opportunities in our coastal wetlands are abundant as the days grow warmer and longer.

Additionally, festivals often recruit volunteers to maintain trash and recycling as well as operations and logistics, urban areas organize tree plantings and beautification projects, and trash cleanups are becoming a popular activity combined with exercise–like plogging. Along the coast, several organizations offer volunteering opportunities throughout the year. Some of the organizations who work on or near CWPPRA project sites are Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP), Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL), The Meraux Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and Keep Louisiana Beautiful. If none of these organizations pique your interest, there are bound to be local organizations in your community who need help.

Volunteer jobs that specifically benefit our coastal zone are vegetative plantings and trash cleanups. Vegetation is important in wetlands to filter excess nutrients and pollutants, to hold sediment during storms, and to provide habitat for wildlife. Litter is not only an eyesore; even a small piece of trash can have a major impact on the health of any animal that mistakes it for food. Other debris leaches toxic chemicals into the soil, which then accumulate in plant tissues and spread throughout an ecosystem.

Even small acts here and there add up, so get out and pay respect to your community. Whether it’s volunteering with an organization or picking up trash as you walk through a parking lot, your small act can go a long way. We appreciate all volunteer efforts because they directly impact our community and strengthen our connection to the environment, even if they don’t relate directly to Louisiana’s coast. We extend a very heartfelt thank you to those volunteers who do more than their fair share to ensure the health of our coastal zone!

 

Featured Image from http://mississippiriverdelta.org/earth-day-2016-planting-trees-to-restore-louisianas-coast/

 

Lafayette Family Adventure Day

On Saturday, March 16, as part of Family Adventure Day, a fundraiser for Healing House, a non-profit in Lafayette offering grief counseling for children, families explored 42 stations around town. Each station offered a free activity that could engage family members of all ages. Our table was set up at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) headquarters near the Cajundome. Some of our neighbors were the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS, one of our managing agencies), the Acadiana Park Nature Station, and LDWF .

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At our station, families could hold baby alligators and touch a few different animal hides with LDWF; play with Einstein, the albino corn snake from the Acadiana Park Nature Station; practice their fishing technique, plant seeds for pollinators, or identify different bird species using binoculars with USFWS. Our public outreach office brought our habitat toss game that highlights the differences between wetland habitats in Louisiana and why an animal species would live in one habitat but not another, as well as give some examples of species that use more than one type of habitat. We also brought plenty of educational publications.

An estimated ninety families passed through the LDWF headquarters during the day , so we saw about 300 people over the course of the event. Families visited locations like the Lafayette Science Museum, the UL Marine Survival Training Center, Bayou Vermilion District, and more. Our posters, magnet sheets and stickers were popular with the kids, and several families signed up to receive WaterMarks.

Family Adventure Day is an annual event, so be on the lookout for next year! We had a great day and we appreciate LDWF and USFWS for hosting us this year. We would also like to thank all of the families who came to support Healing House and learn about our area’s wildlife. Please enjoy the attached photos of families engaging with us and our neighbors.