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

 

 

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2nd Annual Cook-Off for the Coast

Thanks to the Meraux Foundation, the second annual Cook-Off for the Coast played out beautifully on Saturday, February 9th, 2019. CWPPRA was one of many outreach and educational groups hosted at Docville Farm in Violet, LA for an afternoon of good food, good music, and great enthusiasm for coastal restoration. All profits raised by the event went to Chalmette High School and Nunez Community College coastal restoration organizations which will use the funds to continue propagating and planting black mangroves in St. Bernard Parish and installing artificial oyster reef breakwaters just north of Comfort Island east of the current delta. We were set up next to our partner CPRA and under the same tent as Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater New Orleans, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the LSU AgCenter. Across the lot from us were Restore the Mississippi River Delta, CRCL, and various other restoration-minded groups.

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The theme for this year’s cook-off was wild game so all the food that was prepared had some kind of wild game in it, including tuna, oysters, hog, etc. Each of the cooking groups brought something unique to the table, including duck tacos, crawfish eggrolls, and deer/hog gumbo. As the public got tastes of the coast, they could wander through the exhibition of restoration/protection groups. At our table we had our #ProtectOurCoast poster series and stickers, some relevant issues of WaterMarks, and activity books for our younger visitors. Visitors could also compete in Wetland Jeopardy. After learning about coastal issues and restoration efforts, visitors could enjoy more food or go into the dance hall where Michot’s Melody Makers were playing their traditional Cajun music.

As the day came to a close, everyone gathered in the dance hall to award the best dishes as decided by the public. Awards were given for the best overall dish as well as best dish in 3 categories: Crawl, Fly, and Swim. With so many good contenders, the decision must have been difficult for the voting visitors. We would like to congratulate all the participants for getting involved with such a meaningful cause and preparing such delicious food. We’d like to thank the visitors and other exhibitors, as well as the Meraux Foundation, for the opportunity to share our love of wetlands and food- we cannot restore our coast without them.

 

Regional Planning Teams

This week, CWPPRA was scheduled to hear proposals for potential projects that will compete for funding in the upcoming fiscal year. FY19 is bound to have some fierce competitors, including some projects that may not have been awarded funding in previous years. In our Dec 12, 2018 post, we outlined a bit of the project selection process and we hope to see new and innovative ideas soon. At this time, the Regional Planning Team (RPT) meetings have been postponed following the government shutdown.

To reiterate the RPT process from the December 12th post, new projects are proposed annually across the coast. If any of our readers wish to propose a project this year, watch our newsflash for rescheduled meeting times in your region. Project proposals guidelines can be found on our Newsflash announcement. After each RPT meeting, the projects from each of CWPPRA’s 4 regions are compiled by RPT members and submitted to the next phase of competition. Each Parish and CWPPRA personnel submit a ranking of important projects, which helps the Technical Committee narrow down the list to 10 of the most promising projects. These 10 projects are further evaluated by CWPPRA working groups to look at environmental impact, engineering concepts, and other important aspects of each proposal, then the Technical Committee selects 4 to recommend to the Task Force for Phase I Engineering & Design.

In December 2018, the CWPPRA Technical Committee narrowed 10 potential Phase I projects down to 4 and the list for Phase II approval to 2 projects. The Task Force was scheduled to meet January 24th, 2019 to approve the recommended projects but, since the federal government was still partially closed, some of the critical task force representatives were unable to meet that day and so that meeting will be replaced with an electronic vote.

This latest government shutdown may have thrown a wrench into the CWPPRA process, our commitment to the coast is as strong as ever. We will continue to hear proposals, select projects, and work with our partners to construct projects that support the state of our coastline and all who live there. Watch for our Newsflash if you want to participate in our Project selection process; we look forward to helping you #ProtectOurCoast!

 

Featured image from https://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2016/05/03/science/isle-de-jean-charles-resettlement-plan.html

Whiskey Island Back Barrier Marsh Creation (TE-50)

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Gulfside and bayside erosion has resulted in the narrowing of Whiskey Island (and the entire Isles Dernieres chain) as the two shorelines migrate toward each other, resulting in a 68 percent decrease in average width for the Isles Dernieres. Within 100 years, the entire subaerial portion of the Isles Dernieres barrier island system is expected to disappear except for small land fragments associated with the western end of Whiskey Island and the eastern end of East Island. However, some estimates project the Isles Dernieres will disappear much earlier. Other predictions suggest that, without restoration, Whiskey Island could become a subaqueous sand shoal by 2019. Another CWPPRA restoration project, Whiskey Island Restoration (TE-27), which included placement of dredge material, vegetative planting, and sand fencing, was completed in 2000.

The goal of the TE-50 project is to increase the longevity of the previously restored and natural portions of the island by increasing the island’s width. Increasing the island’s width will help to retain sand volume and elevation. Approximately 319 acres of back barrier intertidal marsh habitat, 5,865 linear feet of tidal creeks, three 1-acre tidal ponds and 13,000 linear feet of protective sand dune were created by semiconfined disposal and placement of dredged material. The sediment was dredged from a sediment source in the Gulf of Mexico near the island. The area was planted with native marsh vegetation to colonize and protect the newly-placed marsh soil.

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Whiskey Island, one of five islands that make up the Isles Dernieres barrier island chain, is located 18 miles southwest of Cocodrie in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. The island is surrounded by Coupe Colin to the west, Whiskey Pass to the east, Lake Pelto, Caillou Boca, and Caillou Bay to the north, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south.

The CWPPRA Task Force approved funding for construction (phase 2) at the February 13, 2008 Task Force meeting. Construction began in March 2009 and initial construction was completed in November 2009.Vegetative plantings were installed at the project site in June of 2010 and October 2011.

This project is on Project Priority List 13.

Federal Sponsor: EPA

Local Sponsor: CPRA

East Sabine Lake Hydrologic Restoration (CS-32)

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The lower salinity marshes are converting to shallow, open water due to elevated salinity events and subsidence. Navigation channels provide a direct route for salt water to infiltrate the marsh, disrupt the natural water circulation, and allow rapid runoff of fresh water. The larger Sabine-Neches Waterway and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) have allowed saltwater intrusion into the project area’s fresh and intermediate marshes. Elevated tidal fluctuations in these channels have led to increased water flow, which has increased the conversion of marsh to open water. Area marsh loss is also caused by wave action along Sabine Lake and interior marsh shorelines and other natural causes (i.e., subsidence).

The project features include: a rock weir in Pines Ridge Bayou; three culverts with flap gates at Bridge Bayou; a 3,000 foot-long rock rip-rap breakwater along the Sabine Lake shoreline at Willow Bayou; a weir/plug at the opening at Starks South Canal Section 16 levee; and 232,000 linear feet of vegetated earthen terraces in the vicinity of Greens Lake.

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The project is located in the western portion of the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge from Pool 3 to the eastern shoreline of Sabine Lake in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

Construction was completed in October 2010.

This project is on Priority Project List 10.

The Federal Sponsor is U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Local Sponsor is CPRA

Coastal Permitting and Mitigation

With the United States midterm elections coming up, this week’s Wetland Wednesday focuses on the roles of government in coastal restoration, specifically permitting and mitigation. Of course, each coastal parish has their own government and representatives, and the State of Louisiana has dedicated offices for coastal restoration.

Anyone who wants to construct a restoration project in the coastal zone must go through the State of Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to obtain the proper permitting, most commonly a Coastal Use Permit. [1] The DNR requires all who apply for a coastal use permit to prove that they have sufficiently addressed the need for environmental damage mitigation. CWPPRA-funded projects are permitted through this office because they have sufficient positive environmental impact. Our engineers and managers must prove that they have done the necessary surveys and sustainable development plans. Other coastal uses that require permitting include dock construction, dredging and infilling, and oil well capping and abandonment.

All permits are distributed with the intent of preserving net ecosystem integrity, meaning that if there is a large impact at the project location, damage mitigation measures are required. Recent legislation at the state level has been moving toward the idea of “Environmental Banking”, [2] which would allow developers to invest in the coastal zone, providing funds for restoration and earning credits that can be cashed in for mitigation needs. This process would get dollars on the ground in advance to help fund restoration. Since local damage is so common in development, environmental bank investors must invest in the bank that deals with the zone they will want to develop.

CWPPRA was enacted in 1990 to minimize coastal land loss. One of the most important goals of our projects is to provide a net benefit to the local environment. Legislation and permitting allow us to do this vital work, and we appreciate the efforts in Louisiana toward responsible coastal use. We hope everyone, both in government and the larger public, continues to view coastal land loss as a serious threat to the economy, ecosystems, and civilization.

[1] http://www.dnr.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=pagebuilder&tmp=home&pid=85&ngid=5

[2] http://www.jmbcompanies.com/Services/Mitigation/mitigation-banking-environmental

Raccoon Island Shoreline Protection/ Marsh Creation (TE-48)

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The Isles Dernieres barrier island chain is experiencing some of the highest erosion rates of any coastal region in the world. Raccoon Island is experiencing shoreline retreat both gulfward and bayward, threatening one of the most productive wading bird nesting areas and shorebird habitats along the gulf coast.

An existing demonstration project on the eastern end of the island, Raccoon Island Breakwaters Demonstration project (TE-29), has proven that segmented breakwaters can significantly reduce, and perhaps even reverse, shoreline erosion rates. The primary goal of this project is to protect the Raccoon Island rookery and seabird colonies from the encroaching shoreline by: 1) reducing the rate of shoreline erosion along the western, gulfward side and 2) extending the longevity of northern backbay areas by creating 60 acres of intertidal wetlands that will serve as bird habitat. This project has been separated into two construction phases, Phase A and Phase B. Phase A includes the construction of eight additional segmented breakwaters gulfward of the island and immediately west of the existing breakwaters demonstration project and an eastern groin that will connect existing Breakwater No. 0 to the island. Phase B involves the construction of a retention dike along the northern shore to create a back bay enclosure that will be filled with sediments dredged from the bay and/or gulf, followed by vegetative plantings.

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The project is located in the Terrebonne Basin on the western-most island of the Isles Dernieres barrier island chain in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.

This project was selected for engineering and design funding at the January 2002 Breaux Act Task Force meeting. Construction funding for Phase A was approved in October 2004. Request for Phase B construction funding is anticipated to occur in January 2008.

This project is on Priority Project List 11.

The Sponsors include:

Federal Sponsor: NRCS

Local Sponsor: CPRA