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

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Prothonotary Warblers

 

As April passes into May, many migratory birds leave the tropics of Central and South America in search of bountiful summer resources in the sub-tropical United States. Among them, the very charismatic Prothonotary Warbler flies from the northern tropics to the hospitable habitats of the United States. Prothonotary warblers live in forests near bodies of slow-moving water where they can hunt for insects and nest in cavities in trees. The cypress swamps of Louisiana are about as good as it gets for a prothonotary warbler, and they stay from April to August. [1] If you get out into the swamp during the summer, look for their bright yellow figures darting through low-lying foliage.

Prothonotary warblers have experienced a population decline in recent years that experts attributed to the destruction of their wintering habitat in the tropics.[2] To improve breeding success and survivorship, the Audubon Society and other ornithological enthusiasts have encouraged people to install nest boxes that help to protect warbler nests from failing. Many natural threats exist in swamps for warblers, including a variety of snakes, birds of prey, and mammals. Since brown-headed cowbirds will use prothonotary nests to lay their eggs in when given the chance, nest boxes are suggested to have a 1¼“ hole to prevent larger birds from entering the box but still allow the warblers to enter. Boxes are not left on the ground, and are often mounted on poles. Some predators can climb, so many boxes have a skirt/collar that prevents snakes, raccoons, and cats from climbing the poles into the nests. More guidelines for a good nest box can be found at https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/features-of-a-good-birdhouse/.

 

 

[1] Petit, L. J. (1999). Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.408

[2] Kaufman, Kenn. “Prothonotary Warbler.” Audubon, National Audubon Society, 10 Mar. 2016, http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/prothonotary-warbler.

Featured Image:

Brannon, Peter. “Adult Male.” All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Florida, 14 Sept. 2016, http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Prothonotary_Warbler/id.

Bio-Engineered Oyster Reef Demonstration (LA-08)

LA-08

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.

pic_LA_08

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

aerial_rings

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)

 

 

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].

Urban Delta_Image 2

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.

Urban Delta_Image 1

Continue reading “The Future of Urban Deltas”

Audubon Zoo – Earth Fest

Environmental awareness is an important factor in protecting the earth, and the Audubon Institute understands that. With the help of Entergy, the Audubon Zoo has hosted Earth Fest for over twenty years to date, celebrating conservation and environment-friendly practices.

This past Saturday, March 24, CWPPRA was one of many organizations to be represented at Earth Fest along with Wetland Watchers, EnergySmart, Sea Grant, and many more. Each of these organizations brought educational activities to be enjoyed by children and adults alike, such as demonstrations of energy-saving appliances, composting, and beekeeping strategies. Participants could paint with produce from a local farmer’s market, learn about the similarities in bone structures between humans and manatees, and get their faces painted. When they were not busy visiting the zoo enclosures or talking to organizations, guests could enjoy a number of local food vendors or live performers at the pavilion, including Grammy-winning Lost Bayou Ramblers from south Louisiana.

CWPPRA Public Outreach spent the day handing out informational booklets about restoration projects, posters from the Protect Our Coast series, and activity books, as well as playing our popular “Wetland Jeopardy” game with any and all who were interested. Many eager and interested visitors participated in the Earth Fest Earth Quest, a game that led them to ask questions to appropriate organizations in exchange for a stamp. 10 stamps earned them a prize of a young plant to take home and care for. Earth Fest had a wide range of attractions that hopefully inspired all visitors to be more conscious of environmental issues and to help in the efforts to live for a healthier tomorrow.

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CWPPRA and the Public Working Together

CWPPRA projects are science-based and initiate wetland restoration which is crucial to not only sustain Louisiana’s fisheries but also to protect the region’s people and resources [2]. CWPPRA relies on local input to develop projects that best serve affected residents and invites citizens to participate in project planning and selection” [2].

IMG_5174CWPPRA aims and encourages public participation to all CWPPRA meetings in which community knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation may provide insight about environmental change [1]. As CWPPRA provides public education and involvement, communities “see firsthand how change is impacting their environment and have modified their behaviors to become better environmental stewards” [2].

Restoration activities include meetings and becoming knowledgeable about protection and restoration plans. Citizens who experience flooding, channel navigation, offshore fishing and boating are encouraged to participate in all CWPPRA public meetings.

A WaterMarks interview with Don Davis of LSU SeaGrant mentioned that he believes coastal land loss is a social problem in which families who have lived in the region for more than (7) generations need an active role in finding affordable and workable solutions [1]. Ultimately Davis mentioned that each community requires solutions to coastal land loss to be affordable and have the capacity to proceed quickly with brutal honesty [1].

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWork Cited:

[1] Davis, Don: Interview WaterMarks January 2014, Number 48

[2] WaterMarks: January 2014, Number 48