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].

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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].

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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.

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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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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

Bio-Engineered Oyster Reef Demonstration (LA-08)

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

 

 

UL-Lafayette Fête de la Terre

What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than with jambalaya, Cajun music, and conservation? That is how the CWPPRA outreach team and many other organizations spent last Friday, April 20th, at the UL-Lafayette Fête de la Terre Expo. The expo showcased many wonderful local groups including, but not limited to, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the TECHE Project, and the Bayou Vermilion District, all hosted by the ULL Office of Sustainability.

Students visiting the expo could learn about how long it takes for different types of litter to decompose naturally, how solar panels are used to generate power, and whether or not to recycle different waste products. During their visit, they could grab free jambalaya, listen to the Cajun jam session, or decorate their very own reusable grocery bag. There are so many resources that help our community celebrate conservation, and the expo was a beautiful day for getting ULL students and faculty involved, interested, and informed.

 

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The Future of Urban Deltas

An urban delta may be defined as a city home to as many as half a billion people living and working in a deltaic zone where rivers meet the ocean. These communities are coastal, riparian, & urban which are threatened by increasingly strong typhoons, hurricanes, uneven rainfall patterns with droughts [6].

According to New America, the 3 major global trends are climate change, rural to urban migration, and urban economic concentration. The Delta Coalition is the world’s first international coalition of governments joining forces to share knowledge, innovation and sustainability practices to create more resilient urban deltas [1].

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Policy makers, politicians, NGOs, academics, engineers, designers and consultants worked and talked together about the challenges and opportunities of the world’s urban deltas at a Sustainable Urban Deltas conference in 2016 [4].

Deltaic countries who have joined The Delta Coalition  include: Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mozambique, Myanmar, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and Vietnam [6]. Other organizations moving forward toward sustainable urban deltas are PRIVA, and Sustainable Urban Delta where waste water recycling, or creating bio-fuel from food waste are examples of sustainable innovations for urban deltas [5].

World City Populations 1950-2030

Urban Population Image 1

By one count, over 1/4 of the world’s 136 largest port cities occupy deltaic formations [2] and the percentage of people living in urban areas “has grown from 34% in 1960 to a projected 66% in 2050” [6].

Urbanization is directly related to economic growth, creating more jobs, and increasing population; though this steadfast increase is positive in some ways, it also increases the chance of poor governmental preparedness resulting in poor living conditions, quality of life, and slums [6].

“It is clear we can only solve the world’s environmental problems if we solve the problems of our cities first” [1]. — According to Chief Curator of IABR ( International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam), world leaders must  invest in learning the capacity of cities, experiment, and join networks while creating new and positive urban visualizations towards a productive, clean and socially inclusive city [3].

In regards to Louisiana’s urban delta, CPRA developed Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast to incorporate coastal wetland protection and restoration for coastal and deltaic communities, and CWPPRA projects are consistent with the Master Plan.

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Continue reading “The Future of Urban Deltas”

Black Bayou Culverts Hydrological Restoration (CS-29)

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The marsh within this area has been suffering from excessive water levels within the lakes subbasin that kills vegetation, prevents growth of desirable annual plant species, and contributes to shoreline erosion. Black Bayou offers a unique location in the basin where the water in the lakes subbasin and the outer, tidal waters are separated by only a narrow highway corridor.

Project components include installing ten 10 foot by 10 foot concrete box culverts in Black Bayou at the intersection of Louisiana Highway 384. The structure discharge will be in addition to the discharges provided by Calcasieu Locks, Schooner Bayou, and Catfish Point water control structures.

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The project features are located in southern Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. The majority of the project area is located east of Calcasieu Lake and includes areas north of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and west of Grand Lake in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

Construction has been completed.

This project is on Priority Project List 9.

Federal Sponsor: NRCS

Local Sponsor: CPRA