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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Goose Point/Point Platte Marsh Creation (PO-33)

Interior ponding and, to a lesser extent, shoreline erosion are the major causes of wetland loss in the project area. Loss rates were highest during the period from 1956 to
1978. Those high loss rates were associated with hydrologic alterations which allowed salt water to penetrate the fresher marshes. During the transition to a more brackish plant community, large ponds were formed. A narrow strip of land separates those ponds from Lake Pontchartrain. Although the shoreline erosion rates are relatively low, the shoreline is already breached in several areas, and marsh loss in the interior ponds is expected to increase if the shoreline fails.

The goal of this project is to re-create marsh habitat in the open water behind the shoreline. This new marsh will maintain the lake-rim function along this section of the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain by preventing the formation of breaches into interior ponds. Sediment will be dredged from Lake Pontchartrain and contained in cells within the interior ponds to create approximately 417 acres of marsh. In addition, 149 acres of degraded marsh will be nourished with dredged material. Marsh will be created to widen the shoreline so that the ponds will not be breached during the course of normal shoreline retreat.

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The project is located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain between Fontainebleau State Park and Louisiana Highway 11 and within the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. The project area at Goose Point also includes a portion of the St. Tammany State Wildlife Refuge.

On February 12, 2009, a final inspection of the project site was conducted. All construction activities are complete. This project is on Priority Project List 13.

 

The Federal Sponsor is USFWS

The Local Sponsor is CPRA

Coastal Cultures: Isleños

In a conference call with our Outreach Committee last week, a committee member reminded us to discuss the human component in our Habitat Toss outreach activity. We’re taking it a step further and turning our focus to various ethnic and cultural groups who settled the Louisiana wetlands and support themselves and their families through coastal industries.

Today, our focus is on the Isleños of Louisiana. During the late eighteenth century, these people originally immigrated to the United States from the Canary Islands, off the west coast of Africa. According to the official website, Los Isleños of St. Bernard Parish, Spain sent settlers from the Canary Islands to settle around New Orleans from 1778 to 1783 in response to British interest in Mexico. Since the Spanish had a large investment already in Mexico, they sent Canarians to establish settlements to counter British expansion towards Mexico, but instead, the new colonists formed communities that built strong ties to existing industry in the area. Four settlements were created by the Spanish for Canarians and other immigrants to live in and develop: Galveztown, Valenzuela, Barataria, and San Bernardo. For the first few years of each settlement, Spain subsidized costs and gave many of these new Canarian colonists (Isleños) land grants. Subsidies stopped in 1785 when the colonies became self-sustaining. San Bernardo became a successful agricultural community, thanks to the fertile soils of the lower Mississippi River Watershed. Under French Rule, the community was later renamed to St. Bernard.

In only seven short years, the Isleños established strong communities which later became major players in sugar, cattle, and several other farm crops. Some Isleños chose to leave their farms and joined the commercial fishing industry in the 1820s, ultimately becoming the Delacroix Island fishing community. Later in the century, the communities of Yscloskey and Shell Beach were founded through the same method.

Today, those communities are still heavily involved in the commercial fishing industry, but their homes are threatened by coastal land loss. CWPPRA has funded the design and implementation of several projects in that area. Though the history of St. Bernard Parish has been preserved for generations, it would be a tremendous loss to have such a historic area wash away due to preventable causes. It is for this reason that CWPPRA works to #ProtectOurCoast.

 

Find out more about the Islenos and their coastal legacy through the Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society website: http://www.losislenos.org/.

Marsh Madness

Buckle up sports fans, because things are heating up, and not just on the college basketball court. CWPPRA projects are putting their best foot forward to land a spot in the next round of competition. There are 22 contending players going into a free-for-all to win a spot on CWPPRA’s roster. This draft means a lot to the strength of our team, so it is important that all the potential projects are in peak condition.

The CWPPRA project selection process is all about fundamentals. Projects are evaluated on how strong they would be on the defense for the United States national team and ranked accordingly. Task Force “coaches” are looking for projects that can block opponents such as hurricanes, will continue to develop after they join the team, and will work well with with other projects. Today, our contenders are practicing and refining their fundamentals before they have a shoot-out on April 11th on the technical committee’s home court in Baton Rouge. Technical Committee members will select a subset of 10 player projects that they think will be well-rounded to benefit team Louisiana and all its fans. That list of 10 projects will go on to the final round of the competition, and up to 4 will make the cut.

If you are a fan of coastal restoration, feel free to send us your draft picks for the upcoming vote! All the current stats for the candidate list can be found on our March 11 newsflash at https://www.lacoast.gov/ocmc/MailContent.aspx?ID=10119. We look forward to signing some of these exciting new prospects and we wish the projects luck!

 

Featured Image from https://www.pinterest.es/pin/380413499743991365/?lp=true

 

Boston Canal/Vermilion Bay Bank Protection (TV-09)

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Construction of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Boston Canal, and oilfield canals has greatly increased tidal exchange between Vermilion Bay and the adjacent marshlands to the north, particularly near their confluence with Vermilion Bay. This tidal exchange, combined with the effects of wave action from the bay and boat wake from traffic on the canal, has contributed to significant shoreline erosion along the Vermilion Bay shoreline. This same set of problems has also caused shoreline erosion along Boston Canal, particularly near its confluence with Vermilion Bay.

Rock dikes configured as sediment traps were constructed along the shoreline at the mouth of Boston Canal to promote sediment deposition and protect the shoreline and adjacent wetlands from continued wave-induced erosion. Vegetation was planted along 14 miles of the Vermilion Bay shoreline to act as a wave buffer and decrease shoreline erosion rates.

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The project encompasses 466 acres of brackish marsh along approximately 16 miles of Vermilion Bay’s northern shoreline adjacent to Boston Canal. Running from the Oaks Canal to Mud Point, the project is located roughly 6 miles southeast of Intracoastal City, Louisiana, in Vermilion Parish.

Following the construction of the rock dikes, as much as 4.5 feet of sediment has  vertically accreted in the lee, or windsheltered regions, of the structures. The dikes and vegetative plantings have increased vegetation cover, resulting in 57
acres of land growth. The shoreline has been stabilized at the mouth of Boston
Canal.

The survivorship and vegetation cover percentage along the shoreline were more pronounced in areas where native vegetation did not exist. Survivorship and percent cover were least pronounced when marshhay cordgrass (Spartina patens) was planted in established stands of roseau cane (Phragmites australis). Overall survivorship of planted smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) was over 90% after 12 months. Current coverage is nearing 100%. The 2005 OM&M Report concluded the sediment build-up behind the dike on the east and west sides is continuing and vegetation has taken over the exposed mud flats. Elevation data show an increase in sedimentation behind the rock breakwater.

This project is on Priority Project List 2.

Federal Sponsor: NRCS

Local Sponsor: CPRA

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