Sugar Cane

The natural flooding of the Mississippi River has produced fertile wetland soils which farmers in Louisiana use to grow sugar cane. Sugar cane was introduced in the plantation region around New Orleans in the 1750s and succeeded due to the slave labor required to cultivate the crop. [1] Commercial farming hit its stride with the introduction of new technology for granulating sugar in 1795  at Étienne de Boré’s plantation. Ever since , Louisiana’s sugar cane industry has flourished and remained, to this day, one of Louisiana’s main agricultural products.

At least 25,000 Louisiana residents across 23 parishes grow, harvest, or process sugar cane from around 400,000 acres of farmland that are set in our fertile wetlands. Multiple effect evaporators, invented in 1834 by a Creole chemical engineer named Norbert Rillieux, a free man of color, are still used today. [2] New innovations in crop protection, hardiness of varieties, and processing techniques continue to rake in $645 million from exports alone, constituting 16 percent of total national sugar production. [3] Interspersed between sugar cane fields, one can find dual rice-crawfish fields as well as soybeans, cotton, and corn. Sweet potatoes and juicy Louisiana strawberries are among the state’s staple crops as well.

Even with new technologies and innovations, fertile soils are still one of the largest contributing factors to the success of agriculture in our wetland state. Land loss threatens to ruin the livelihood of Louisiana farmers. Salt water intrusion continues to penetrate our interior agricultural land as our coastal marshes vanish. More about salt water intrusion can be found in our post about the topic. [LINK] Restoring natural hydrology and preventing saltwater intrusion from harming our fertile wetland soils is imperative for Louisiana farmers. Protecting our coast has long-reaching benefits to our vital agricultural industry, our citizens, and our state, and CWPPRA is working alongside other groups to restore our natural coastline for a sustainable future.

[1] http://www.assct.org/louisiana/progress.pdf

[2] https://www.lsuagcenter.com/profiles/lbenedict/articles/page1503347392487

[3] https://www.lsuagcenter.com/portals/communications/publications/agmag/archive/2008/spring/sugar-processing-in-louisiana

Featured Image from https://www.trover.com/d/1zHAz-new-iberia-louisiana

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Oysters

Oysters aren’t just delicious to eat, they are also a versatile tool to restore and protect the Louisiana coastline! Oyster reefs protect shorelines from wave energy, filter water, and improve habitat quality. Unfortunately, much of our country’s oyster production is unsustainable because of a combination of activities including over-harvesting, pollution, and habitat destruction through dredging and collection practices. As we restore oyster reefs, they will have positive environmental, economic, and cultural impacts.

In other areas of the United States, these harmful extraction methods have all but ruined the oyster industry. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, their estuary has lost more than 98 percent of its oysters with major economic consequences. [1] In Louisiana, we have not experienced nearly as much damage, so we can more readily restore our reefs. Some benefits we could gain from healthier reefs, according to our partners at BTNEP, include wave energy absorption, reduction of the Gulf Dead Zone, and improved habitat for nearly 300 species of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. By supporting oyster reefs, you support fisheries as well as resiliency. A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day, removing excess nutrients and lessening the coast’s eutrophication (nutrient pollution that leads to algal blooms) and dead zones (areas of low dissolved oxygen). [2]

Aside from the numerous important ecological benefits, the price tag for oyster reef restoration is cheaper other protection techniques. According to an article in Scientific American, the adaptation strategy of raising houses onto stilts costs more than the damages it will prevent. [3] Some of the most cost-effective protection methods cited in the article included wetland restoration (nearly a 10:1 protection to cost ratio), oyster reef restoration (just over 7:1) and barrier island restoration (about 5:1). Many of these restoration and protection strategies have been utilized by CWPPRA since the 1990s.

CWPPRA projects are synergistic approaches to protecting and restoring our coast, using the best available science to implement projects in areas of most need, as well as emphasizing cooperation between projects and their managing agencies.  Sustainable innovations in oyster reef restoration is just one way in which CWPPRA achieves its goal of wetland restoration.

[1] https://www.cbf.org/about-the-bay/more-than-just-the-bay/chesapeake-wildlife/eastern-oysters/

[2] web.archive.org/web/20170802173757/http:/www.noaa.gov/media-release/gulf-of-mexico-dead-zone-is-largest-ever-measured

[3] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/rebuilt-wetlands-can-protect-shorelines-better-than-walls/

Featured Image from https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/florida/stories-in-florida/floridas-oyster-reef-restoration-program/

 

Earth Day 2019

This past Monday, we celebrated the 48th annual Earth Day. Since the inaugural Earth Day in 1970, we have made huge strides in environmental protection and restoration but there are activities at the local, state, and federal level we can continue do to help the environment.  As we work to protect our environment, it will continue to provide us with food, clean water, protection, and recreational activities.

As an individual, you can plant native plants, pick up litter, and bike to work. At the local level, you can work with your municipal government to install green infrastructure and set up local farmers markets and composting/recycling programs. At the federal level, there are numerous organizations working towards large scale restoration projects and formulating policy that protects the environment, and regulatory agencies that make sure environmental laws are enforced. CWPPRA, made up of five federal agencies and the state of Louisiana, was signed into law specifically to reverse some of the human and natural damages across Louisiana’s coastline. At both small and large scales, our restoration and protection projects work to bolster our defenses against storm winds and wave energy.

Everyday is Earth Day for the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act as we are always working to restore our coastal wetlands. As the land loss crisis in Louisiana becomes more intense, we need to work to restore our wetlands so that they will continue to provide us with protection from storms, natural resources, and preserve our way of life. CWPPRA is committed to this mission and we hope you can join us in supporting a healthy Louisiana for generations to come. Happy Earth Day from all of us at CWPPRA.

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

 

 

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)

wordpress fact sheet banner TE-50-01

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