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/

 

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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.

 

First Day of Spring

Spring is in the air! That means a burst of life in our coastal wetlands. You may already see flowers blooming, new leaves on trees, and a variety of migratory birds returning to their nesting habitat. Today, on the first day of spring, let’s explore the annual rebirth of Louisiana’s coastal habitats.

As plants proliferate in the warmer temperatures, so too a riot of colors joins the landscape. Some coastal favorites are seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and salt marsh morning glory (Ipomoea sagittata) for good reason: they produce attractive flowers that saturate the wetlands with color. Other plants have less colorful flowering and fruiting structures but are more prevalent. Many sedges (Family Cyperaceae) are beginning to put out their iconic inflorescences, the branching flower clusters, as are several grasses (Family Poaceae). Other popular marsh plants including Juncus and Spartina species also begin their pollination cycle. The reliable reproduction of these graminoid (grass-like) plants is helpful in CWPPRA marsh creation projects because those species repopulate new land more quickly than woody plants. Once they move in and put down healthy roots, they demonstrate the effectiveness of CWPPRA projects and their success!

Plant enthusiasts aren’t the only ones excited for springtime; wildlife watchers, especially birders, see an infusion of new plant growth and wildlife offspring. Many birds return from their wintering grounds in South America to the warm nesting grounds along the Mississippi Flyway. Songbirds like the beloved prothonotary warbler (Protonotaria citrea) fly across the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and our coastal waters to take advantage of the new plant life and insect population booms. South American migrants use the flyway to get further north alongside other species that use our coastal zone as a wintering habitat. Whether they are just stopping over or will be staying for the summer, Louisiana’s spring is one of the most exciting times to birdwatch. [1] Ultimately, birdwatching success diminishes at the same rate as our disappearing coastal wetlands. Habitat loss has major implications for population declines of bird species. Because birds have “favorite” wintering and nesting habitats, they are especially susceptible. Both their wintering and nesting habitats face the threat of deterioration and require protection. This part of the year is great for exploring all the natural areas that Louisiana has to offer, we suggest that you find a day that works in your schedule and visit a wetland near you; you’re bound to find something interesting. [2] We wish you all a happy spring and encourage environmental stewardship each and every day!

 

[1] https://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/bwdsite/explore/regions/southeast/louisiana/louisiana-birding-season-spring.php

[2] https://www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-parks/maps/index

 

 

Watersheds and International Day of Action for Rivers

Water flows from the higher elevations of the northern United States to our low-lying wetlands. Surface elevation, on average, decreases from the northern border with Canada all the way to the mouth of the Mississippi River. What that means is that most of the water that falls between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains drains into the Mississippi and eventually in the coastal waters of Louisiana. We call this area the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) or the Mississippi River Watershed. [1] A watershed, by definition, is an area that drains to a river or lake. The Mississippi River Watershed encompasses nearly 41 percent of the United States.

Streams and ponds in the higher elevations of our watershed are fed by precipitation (rain, snow, hail, etc.) or springs. Water always follows the path of least resistance, which is downhill. Even on gradual slopes, water will seek out lower elevations. Flow rate is dependent on the angle of the slope, also called the elevation gradient. This explains why rivers in more mountainous regions flows faster than in our very flat land. Of course, some water will evaporate, some water will seep into the ground, and the rest will continue downstream until it gets to the ocean. While there are some exceptions to that rule, such as the Great Salt Lake in Utah and other Endorheic basins (no outlets besides evaporation), most water that falls on land will follow the water cycle that we all learned in grade school.

In Louisiana, the MARB outlets are the mouths of the Atchafalaya and Mississippi rivers and their distributaries. Because the state receives this water runoff through our bayous and marshes, so too does it collect  the trash and other pollution from the watershed. This pollution includes not only typical litter and non-point-source runoff, but also agricultural runoff that carries an abundance of nutrients. Select groups across the state are employing litter collection traps in bayous and streams to prevent trash from ending up in our coastal waters. More about these issues can be found in our articles about hypoxia stress and soil pollution.

The International Day of Action for Rivers will be celebrating healthy watersheds worldwide tomorrow, March 14. [2] We encourage our readers to do a little cleaning in their local waterways year-round but especially tomorrow. There are several groups around the state who organize clean-ups in our local waterways for any who are interested. Some of these groups can be found in our sources. As the third largest watershed in the world, the MARB supports numerous ecosystems and human settlements, and it is crucial that we keep it healthy for all its constituents. Each day, our coastal wetlands protect our cities and ports, so we at CWPPRA strive to return the favor and #ProtectOurCoast.

 

[1] https://www.epa.gov/ms-htf/mississippiatchafalaya-river-basin-marb

[2] https://www.internationalrivers.org/dayofactionforrivers

Featured image from http://www.bayouvermilionpreservation.org/photos.html

 

Action groups:

 

City of Lafayette: http://www.lafayettela.gov/EQ/Pages/Environmental-Outreach.aspx

Bayou Vermilion District: http://www.bayouvermiliondistrict.org/

Sierra Club: https://www.sierraclub.org/louisiana/what-do-you-want-do

BREC: http://www.brec.org/index.cfm/page/GroupVolunteerOpportunities

BTNEP: https://volunteer.btnep.org/

Holly Beach Sand Management (CS-31)

wordpress fact sheet banner CS-31-01

The Chenier Plain shoreline was created with sediment transported by the Mississippi River’s periodic westward oscillation. The swales that characterize the Chenier Plain were created by the deposition of these alluvial sediments, and these same sediments also served to extend the shoreline gulfward and create the area’s expansive mudflats.

Chronic erosion in this area is caused by a lack of sand and sediment caused by the channelization and regulation of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers to the east. In addition, the Calcasieu and Mermentau rivers are not supplying coarse-grained sediment to the area, and the Cameron Jetties associated with the Calcasieu Ship Channel deflect the little material that does exist away from the project area.

The project’s goals are: (1) to protect approximately 8,000 acres of existing, low energy intermediate and brackish marsh wetlands north of the forested ridge and (2) to create and protect roughly 300 acres of beach dune and coastal chenier habitat from erosion and degradation.

The project also provides protection for the wooded chenier to the west, which has been purchased by the Baton Rouge Audubon Society. It is being maintained as a sanctuary because of its importance as habitat for Neotropical migratory birds.

The project plan consists of placing approximately 1.7 million cubic yards of high quality sand on the beach to reestablish a more historical shoreline, as well as improve the effectiveness of the existing segmented breakwater system.

map

The project is located west of Calcasieu Pass along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline, extending between Holly Beach and Constance Beach in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

This project was selected for Phase 2 (construction) funding at the August 2001 Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force meeting. Since that time, 1.75 million cubic yards of sand were added to the beach. Sand placement was completed in March 2003.

Project staff installed 102,000 linear feet of vegetative plantings at dune elevation on the Holly Beach dredge platform; 20,400 four-inch containers of bitter panicgrass (Panicum amarum) were planted. The installation of the plantings was completed in August 2003. Cameron Parish believes this project is what saved HWY 82 from being washed out during Hurricane Rita.

This project is on Priority Project List 11.

The Federal Sponsor is NRCS

The local sponsor is CPRA

Mardi Gras is Like Coastal Restoration

We hope our readers had a safe and enjoyable Mardi Gras! This week’s Wetland Wednesday is about consuming, growing, and persisting in honor of our signature holiday. Mardi Gras is traditionally a festival celebrates life and resources before the coming Lenten fast. While fasting during Lent, the calories and nutrients your body stored during Mardi Gras are used to keep your body functioning properly. [1] In a way, Mardi Gras is an investment in the future.

In this regard, CWPPRA has a similar goal to Mardi Gras. We are building up coastal Louisiana’s sediment reserves to keep our state safe during trying times in the foreseeable future. We can compare Lent to a storm event like a hurricane (and not the kind you find on Bourbon Street), because they both deplete the invested material: fat and nutrient reserves during lent and land during a hurricane. While our coast deteriorates to open water, CWPPRA is trying to keep our historic culture and settlements from succumbing to the lack of new sediment. It is our hope and our mission to strengthen Louisiana’s coastline to the point where it can protect our coast and our way of life, including our festival celebrations.

Louisiana has such a diverse set of cultures that reside in our coastal zone, and we would hate to see any more of these cultural hubs be displaced like the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe. [2] We are observing the consequences of coastal land loss in real time now more than ever before. There will be more land lost and more severe consequences from failing to protect our coast. Louisiana’s cultural diversity and supportive nature are things we are all proud of, so join CWPPRA in restoring some of the natural buffer that helps us weather the storms and keeps us functioning properly.

 

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

[2] https://www.thevermilion.com/news/like-a-cancer-isle-de-jean-charles-land-loss-forces/article_7eba1bf6-235b-11e9-b859-3f310ddf6acb.html

Featured Image by John Rowland from https://www.theadvocate.com/acadiana/entertainment_life/mardi_gras/article_62177a9e-fe09-11e6-97ad-db4c0116fc38.html

2nd Annual Cook-Off for the Coast

Thanks to the Meraux Foundation, the second annual Cook-Off for the Coast played out beautifully on Saturday, February 9th, 2019. CWPPRA was one of many outreach and educational groups hosted at Docville Farm in Violet, LA for an afternoon of good food, good music, and great enthusiasm for coastal restoration. All profits raised by the event went to Chalmette High School and Nunez Community College coastal restoration organizations which will use the funds to continue propagating and planting black mangroves in St. Bernard Parish and installing artificial oyster reef breakwaters just north of Comfort Island east of the current delta. We were set up next to our partner CPRA and under the same tent as Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater New Orleans, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the LSU AgCenter. Across the lot from us were Restore the Mississippi River Delta, CRCL, and various other restoration-minded groups.

Chuck.jpg

The theme for this year’s cook-off was wild game so all the food that was prepared had some kind of wild game in it, including tuna, oysters, hog, etc. Each of the cooking groups brought something unique to the table, including duck tacos, crawfish eggrolls, and deer/hog gumbo. As the public got tastes of the coast, they could wander through the exhibition of restoration/protection groups. At our table we had our #ProtectOurCoast poster series and stickers, some relevant issues of WaterMarks, and activity books for our younger visitors. Visitors could also compete in Wetland Jeopardy. After learning about coastal issues and restoration efforts, visitors could enjoy more food or go into the dance hall where Michot’s Melody Makers were playing their traditional Cajun music.

As the day came to a close, everyone gathered in the dance hall to award the best dishes as decided by the public. Awards were given for the best overall dish as well as best dish in 3 categories: Crawl, Fly, and Swim. With so many good contenders, the decision must have been difficult for the voting visitors. We would like to congratulate all the participants for getting involved with such a meaningful cause and preparing such delicious food. We’d like to thank the visitors and other exhibitors, as well as the Meraux Foundation, for the opportunity to share our love of wetlands and food- we cannot restore our coast without them.