Hurricanes

This week marks 13 years since Hurricane Katrina, an event some citizens of Louisiana are still recovering from. We may have all heard the name, but do we know what a hurricane is, how wetlands are affected, and how coastal landforms can decrease hurricane impacts?

“Hurricanes” are low-pressure tropical storm systems that differ from other storms in severity as well as location. A hurricane is a storm with winds above 64mph accompanied by heavy rain that originates in either the NE Pacific or the N Atlantic Ocean (the oceans that touch the USA). Due to a phenomenon called the Coriolis Effect, hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise, whereas a southern hemisphere storm would rotate clockwise. Hurricanes develop a characteristic “eye of the storm” in the center, which is an area of low pressure and low wind. Just outside of the eye is the most severe weather, the eyewall, with winds reaching up to 210mph in the strongest storms! Hurricane “category” ratings are as follows:

  • Category 1: 74-93mph
  • Category 2: 96-109mph
  • Category 3: 110-129mph
  • Category 4: 130-157mph
  • Category 5: >158mph

Hurricanes develop over areas with warmer waters, typically nearer the equator, and move away from the equator. [1] Coastal Louisiana is hit by hurricanes on an increasingly regular basis, and those hurricanes all develop in the North Atlantic Ocean in late summer and fall. Our “Hurricane Season” occurs from June through November each year. [2] Several aspects of hurricanes pose major threats to our wetlands statewide. High winds can topple trees, rip up shrubs and grasses, and move sediments around. High rainfall can cause flooding in areas that are not well-adapted to high-water conditions. Storm surge can push saline seawater into brackish and freshwater systems. Hurricanes cause massive disturbance in coastal wetlands, but wetlands are a crucial barrier that protects major cities from taking as much damage. CWPPRA works to combat land loss and protect the future of coastal Louisiana.

Some CWPPRA projects restore barrier islands, which are natural defenses that develop in the Deltaic Cycle. Barrier islands lessen storm surge during hurricanes, bearing the brunt of the waves. Sadly, they cannot provide perfect protection because they are degrading, but they are not the last line of defense. We still have coastal marshes that are great at storing water and acting like a speed bump to storm surge. It is estimated that each mile of coastal marsh decreases storm surge by about a foot. Unfortunately, many coastal marshes are decaying into open water and are no longer protective barriers. CWPPRA will continue to restore wetlands and nourish barrier islands to #ProtectOurCoast!

 

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

[2] https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

Featured image from [1]

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Louisiana’s Defense Systems: Wetlands and the Case of the Great Wall of Louisiana

In 2013 the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) completed construction of the “Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lake Borgne Surge Barrier”. The project is funded through the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) for southeast Louisiana and considered to be the largest civil works project in corps history. The barrier was built to combat storm surge heights like those observed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More commonly known as the Great Wall of Louisiana, engineering innovations like a 1000 foot trestle allowed the project to be completed in about 3 years’ time instead of an estimated 20. The barrier wall is 1.8 miles in distance, 26 feet tall, and at an estimated construction cost of $1.1 billion federally funded dollars.

Louisiana contains 40 percent of the continental United States’ wetland acreage. Coastal wetlands can protect against storm surge energy and flooding by marsh grasses, trees, and soil working as as system. However Louisiana continues to lose wetlands due to problems like subsidence, sea-level rise, sediment deprivation, oil and gas development, and climate change. With an extreme need of wetland preservation, coastal agencies like CWPPRA and USACE are strategizing to combat these issues.

USACE is one of the five managing agencies of the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act. CWPPRA’s mission is to fund, plan, design, and construct restoration projects in coastal Louisiana at a large and fast pace scale. CWPPRA projects are synergistically funded through partner programs, such as the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Borgne Surge Barrier to protect, preserve, and restore Louisiana’s coast.

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Featured Image Source: https://bit.ly/2MjEIyA

Cameron-Creole Freshwater Introduction

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Virtually all of the project area marshes have experienced
increased tidal exchange, saltwater intrusion, and reduced
freshwater retention resulting from hydrologic changes
associated with the Calcasieu Ship Channel and the GIWW.
In addition, thousands of acres of marsh were damaged by
Hurricane Rita and again, more recently, by Hurricane Ike.
Because of man-made alterations to the hydrology, it is
unlikely that those marshes will recover without
comprehensive restoration efforts. The Cameron-Creole
Watershed Project has successfully reduced salinities and
increased marsh productivity. However, the area remains
disconnected from freshwater, sediments, and nutrients
available from the GIWW.

The freshwater introduction project would restore the
function, value, and sustainability to approximately 22,247
acres of marsh and open water by improving hydrologic
conditions via freshwater input and increasing organic
productivity.

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The project area is located on the east side of Calcasieu Lake
and west of Gibbstown Bridge and Highway 27.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 18.

The Cameron-Creole Freshwater Introduction sponsors include:

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

LaBranche East Marsh Creation

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Dredging of access and flotation canals for the construction
of I-10 and the Illinois Central Railroad resulted in increased
salinity and altered hydrology in the area that exacerbated
the conversion of wetland vegetation into shallow open
water bodies.

The project’s primary goal is to restore marsh that has been
converted to open water. Project implementation will result
in an increase of wildlife and fisheries habitat, acreage and
diversity, along with improving water quality. In addition,
the project will provide a storm buffer protection to I-10, the
region’s primary westward hurricane evacuation route, and
complement hurricane protection measures in the area.
Project features consist of the creation of 729 acres of marsh
and the nourishment of 202 acres of existing marsh using
dedicated dredging from Lake Pontchartrain. In addition,
10,000 linear feet of tidal creeks will be created. The marsh
creation area will have a target elevation the same as average
healthy marsh for this region. Plans are to place the dredge
material in the target area with the use of low level, noncontinuous
retention dikes along the edge of the project area
allowing overtopping of material to nourish the marsh fringe.
Vegetative plantings will be utilized in the areas deemed
most critical by the project team. Successful wetland
restoration in the immediate area (PO-17) clearly
demonstrates the suitability and stability of soil and material
availability from a sustainable borrow area.

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The project features are located between Lake Pontchartrain
and I-10 in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. It is bounded on
the west by the Fall Canal and the Bayou LaBranche
Wetland Creation Project (PO-17) and the east by a pipeline
canal.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 19.

The LaBranche East Marsh Creation project sponsors include:

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