The Louisiana Iris

What we typically refer to as the Louisiana iris actually consists of five species native to Louisiana and surrounding regions in the Southeastern United States. Iris brevicaulis, Iris fulva, Iris giganticaerulea, Iris hexagona and Iris nelsonii are known as the Louisiana irises. These five species participate in interbreeding which results in the variety of irises we grow today.

It is suggested to plant Louisiana iris between the months of August and September when they are dormant for optimal results. However, if you prefer to pick out the colors and types of flowers, it is best to wait until the flowers are in bloom to be sure of what you are planting. Garden cultivation and hybridizing have caused Louisiana iris to bloom in shades of blue, red, yellow, pink, brown, white, purple, and more. The wide range of colors and native quality make it an attractive addition to aquatic gardens and ordinary flower beds. Louisiana irises will grow best with as much direct sunlight as possible.

Within their native habitats, irises often grow along freshwater bayous and sloughs. This wetland vegetation has little tolerance for salt water. The Louisiana iris is at risk due to dredging through wetlands leading to saltwater intrusion. CWPPRA hydrologic restoration and freshwater diversion projects help regulate salinity and restore the natural hydrology of wetlands, ultimately preserving the iris as well as other native plants and animals. Learn more about how to #ProtectOurCoast and its native species at lacoast.gov.

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The Pantanal — The Largest Wetland in the World

Located in the heart of South America is the world’s largest wetland that has not been significantly modified by humans, the Pantanal. The Pantanal is often referred to as South America’s biggest biodiversity star. However, it is also one of the continent’s best-kept secrets, often overshadowed by the Amazon Rainforest. This massive wetland covers an area estimated at 75,000 square miles across Bolivia, Paraguay, and (mostly) Brazil. The Pantanal is home to over 4,700 species of plants and animals.

The array of life in the Pantanal relies on an annual flooding cycle. When it rains, about 80 percent of the floodplain is submerged underwater; throughout the dry season the water lessens. This process is essential to nurturing a biologically diverse collection of plants and providing nutrients that the wetlands need to flourish. An area that is the size of Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, and Portugal combined needs a lot of water to guarantee that it continues to flood and a healthy ecosystem is preserved. The quality of the water is also important to maintaining a nourishing environment. Recently, human activity has been threatening this precious wetland. The Pantanal is threatened by intensive farming, deforestation, and pollution. Few signs of this situation improving are shown, and environmental issues are difficult to resolve quickly. Conservation of the biodiversity and natural resources of the Pantanal is essential.

LaBranche Central Marsh Creation

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Dredging of access/flotation canals for construction of I-10 resulted in increased salinity & altered hydrology that exacerbated conversion of wetland vegetation into shallow open water bodies. Land loss is estimated to be -0.543 percent/year based on USGS data from 1984 to 2011 within the extended project boundary.

The primary goal is to restore marsh that converted to shallow open water. Project implementation will result in an increase of fisheries and wildlife habitat, acreage, and diversity along with improving water quality. The proposed project will provide a protective wetland buffer to the railroad and I-10, the region’s primary westward hurricane evacuation route, and complement hurricane protection measures in the area.

The proposed solution consists of the creation of 762 acres of emergent wetlands and the nourishment of 140 acres of existing wetlands using dedicated dredging from Lake Pontchartrain. The marsh creation area will have a target elevation the same as average healthy marsh. It is proposed to place the dredge material in the target area with the use of retention dikes along the edge of the project area. If degradation of the containment dikes has not occurred naturally by Target Year 3, gapping of the dikes will be mechanically performed. Successful wetland restoration in the immediate area (PO-17 constructed in 1994) clearly demonstrates the ability for these wetlands to be restored using material from a sustainable borrow area (outlet end of Bonnet Carre Spillway). Engineering monitoring surveys of the marsh creation area and borrow area are planned as well.

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This project is located in the Pontchartrain Basin (Region 1), St. Charles Parish. It is bounded to the north by the railroad running parallel to I-10, to the west by the marsh fringe just east of Bayou LaBranche, to the south by Bayou Traverse and to the east by marsh fringe west of a pipeline canal.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 21.

The LaBranche Central Marsh Creation project sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.

Coastal Day at the Louisiana Legislature

On Tuesday, May 2, 2017, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act’s Public Outreach staff participated in the annual Coastal Day at the Louisiana Legislature. This event, organized by the Coast Builders Coalition, aims to educate legislators about the tremendous effort being made to protect and restore Louisiana’s coast.  Coastal Day is a key moment to communicate with and educate representatives and legislators from across the state about the value of protection and restoration of Louisiana’s coast.

The CWPPRA outreach team shared a number of publications at Coastal Day containing information regarding what CWPPRA is, the effectiveness of its projects, and the future of coastal Louisiana. In addition to distributing information and answering questions regarding CWPPRA’s completed, active, and future projects, the outreach staff attended a meeting in which Governor John Bel Edwards spoke highly of restoration efforts in Louisiana and the importance of the 2017 Coastal Master Plan. He also recognized the value of wetlands to both the state and the country, declaring his enthusiasm to move forward with the opportunity to resolve the coastal crisis and become more adept at water management. In addition to the governor, speakers including Representative Jerome Zeringue, Senator Dan Morrish, Johnny Bradberry with CPRA, and Scott Kirkpatrick with Coast Builders Coalition discussed issues affecting Louisiana’s coast. Steve Cochran with Restore the Mississippi River Delta and the Environmental Defense Fund discussed a recent poll in which a resounding 97 percent of voters agreed that Louisiana’s coastal wetlands are important to them.

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May: American Wetlands Month

During the month of May, we recognize and celebrate the various ways that wetlands enrich the environment and people. American Wetlands Month is a time to celebrate why wetlands are indispensable to the ecological, economic, and social health of our country. It is a full month to encourage both communities and individuals to actively participate in the planning, protection, and restoration of our wetlands. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partners with other federal and private partners in celebration of American Wetlands Month each May. These organizations schedule events throughout the month of May to engage those who are striving to better understand the value of wetlands to our country.

An entire month dedicated to American Wetlands speaks volumes on how valuable this natural resource is, although it is among the least understood. Wetlands help improve water quality and supply, reduce flooding, and provide critical habitat for plants, fish and wildlife. Government regulations and zoning restrictions are not enough to protect and restore wetlands alone. Americans must also participate in these efforts to save our wetlands.

History of American Wetlands Month

In 1991, American Wetlands Month was created in effort to celebrate the importance of wetlands and educate Americans about the value of this natural resource. A wide range of individuals with ties to wetlands participate in events and celebrations throughout the month of May to increase awareness of the benefits wetlands provide with hopes of inspiring people to work year-round to protect and expand our wetlands.

Explore Wetlands Around You!

Wetlands are present in all 50 states. It is likely that a wetland exists nearby for you to explore and increase your education during American Wetlands Month and throughout the year. Take some time to learn about wetlands and ways to protect the wetlands around you!

Coastwide Reference Monitoring System

In 1990, the U.S. Congress enacted the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) in response to the growing awareness of Louisiana’s land loss
crisis. CWPPRA was the first federal, statutorily mandated program with a stable source of funds dedicated exclusively to the short- and long-term restoration of the coastal wetlands of Louisiana. Between 1990 and 2016, 108 restoration projects were constructed through the CWPPRA program. These projects include diversions of freshwater and sediments to improve marsh vegetation; dredged material placement for marsh creation; shoreline protection; sediment and nutrient trapping; hydrologic restoration through outfall, marsh, and delta management; and vegetation planting on barrier islands.

The coastal protection and restoration efforts implemented through numerous CWPPRA crms_wetlandsprojects require monitoring and evaluation of project effectiveness. There is also a need to assess the cumulative effects of all projects to achieve a sustainable coastal environment. In 2003, the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration (now CPRA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) received approval from the CWPPRA Task Force to implement the Coastwide Reference Monitoring System (CRMS) as a mechanism to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of CWPPRA projects at the project, region, and coastwide levels (Steyer and others, 2003). The CRMS network is currently funded through CWPPRA and provides data for a variety of user groups, including resource managers, academics, landowners, and researchers.

The effectiveness of a traditional monitoring approach using paired treatment and reference sites is limited in coastal Louisiana because of difficulty in finding comparable test sites; therefore, a multiple reference approach using aspects of hydrogeomorphic functional assessments and probabilistic sampling was adapted into the CRMS design. The CRMS approach gathers information from a suite of sites that encompass a range of ecological conditions across the coast. Trajectories of changing conditions within the reference sites can then be compared with trajectories of change within project sites. The CRMS design not only allows for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of each project but will also support ongoing evaluation of the cumulative effects of all CWPPRA projects throughout the coastal ecosystems of Louisiana. Simulations made by using the resampling methodology described in Steyer and others (2003) indicated that 100 randomly selected reference sites would accurately represent the true composition of coastwide vegetation at a 95 percent confidence level. However, in order to detect a 20 percent change in coastal marsh vegetation between two time periods, at least 80 percent of the time, approximately 400 reference sites were needed. Because of land rights and other technical issues, 390 sites with a fixed annual sampling design were approved and secured for CRMS data collection. These 390 CRMS sites are located within nine coastal basins and four CWPPRA regions, covering the entire Louisiana coast. Site construction and data collection began in 2005.

Because of the quantity of products and data that will be produced over the lifetime of the CRMS project, a website (http://www.lacoast.gov/crms) was designed to be a one-stop shop for CRMS information, products, and data. The ecological data available through the website are linked to the official Louisiana CPRA database – the Coastal Information Management System (CIMS), which houses all CWPPRA monitoring data, on topics such as the following: hydrology, herbaceous marsh vegetation, forested swamp vegetation, soil properties, soil accretion, and surface elevation. Data provided by the Louisiana CPRA are available for downloading at https://cims.coastal.louisiana.gov/. The basic viewer (under Mapping) on the CRMS Web site provides a user-friendly interface for viewing information on specific sampling sites, including photos, data summaries, and report cards. Analytical teams are developing mechanisms by which individual sampling sites can be assessed in relation to other sites within the same marsh type, hydrologic basin, and CWPPRA project. These multi-scale evaluations will be presented on a “Report Card” tab within the basic viewer. The CRMS program is as dynamic as the coastal habitats it monitors. The program continues to develop new products and analysis tools while providing data for model improvement and scientific research. The CRMS Web site is the current dissemination mechanism for all activities related to the program. For a beginner’s guide to retrieving CRMS data, visit https://www.lacoast.gov/new/Ed/CRMS_Manual.pdf.

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Reference:

Steyer, G.D., Sasser, C.E., Visser, J.M., Swensen, E.M., Nyman, J.A., and Raynie, R.C., 2003, A proposed coast-wide reference monitoring system for evaluating wetland restoration trajectories in Louisiana: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, v. 81, p. 107–117.

Oyster Bayou Marsh Creation

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Altered hydrology, drought stress, saltwater intrusion and hurricane induced wetland losses have caused the area to undergo interior marsh breakup. Recent impacts from Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008 have resulted in the coalescence of Oyster Lake with interior water bodies increasing wave/wake related erosion. Based on USGS hyper temporal data analysis (1984 to 2011), land loss for the area is -0.75% per year. The subsidence rate is estimated at 0.0 to1.0 ft per century (Coast 2050, Mud Lake mapping unit).

The project boundary encompasses 809 acres. Specific goals of the project are: 1) create 510 acres of saline marsh in recently formed shallow open water; 2) nourish 90 acres of existing saline marsh; 3) create 17,500 linear feet of terraces; and, 4) reduce wave/wake erosion.

Approximately 510 acres of marsh would be created and 90 acres would be nourished. Sediment needed for the fill would be mined approximately one and a half miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Half of the created acres would be planted. Tidal creeks and ponds would be constructed prior to placement of dredged material and retention levees would be gapped to support estuarine fisheries access to achieve a functional marsh. Approximately 17,500 linear feet of earthen terraces would be constructed and planted.

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This project is in Region 4, Calcasieu-Sabine Basin, located west of the Calcasieu Ship Channel and south of the west fork of the Calcasieu River.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 21.

The Oyster Bayou Marsh Creation project sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.