Darlene Boucher has been documenting her beloved coastal Louisiana for decades. Her photographs evoke the wildness and uncompromising intimacy of the marshes, bays, bayous and barrier islands through a distinctly personal lens.
“What inspires me about our beautiful state are our rivers, bayous and marshes that thrive with wildlife and I get to observe and photograph them! To be one with nature and to witness the shrimpers, crabbers and fisherman all going about their day is something not everyone gets to see. And the sunrises are unbelievable! I am obsessed. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, an occasional visitor into their wonderful world!” –Darlene Boucher
She has an eye for coastal birds in particular, and a journey through her Flickr account will introduce you to a variety of feathered friends in repose and on the hunt for dinner, nurturing their young and preening in the sun. She enjoys the bounty of the wetlands as well, and her photographs of those that provide for their families both daily and the occasional meal convey the importance of the wetlands to Louisiana’s communities as well as its wildlife. Her sunsets are especially peaceful, and captures the reflective meditation of the end of another day.
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Since the crevasse, the area has been in a state of transition. It was once an organic, low-energy system consisting of brackish-saline marsh and was in decline. After the crevasse, it became a deltaic environment dominated by the formation of fresh and intermediate marshes.
GIS analysis indicates that marsh loss has decreased considerably in the project area, and marsh building has begun to occur. Many areas that historically experienced marsh loss were becoming shallower with the introduction of river sediments.
Emergent marsh has been forming throughout the area on the newly accreted mineral soils. Even though this area has experienced a net gain in emergent marsh, this project will enhance the natural marsh-building processes and increase the growth rate of emergent wetlands.
The project included the construction of terraces in open water habitat and the construction of six crevasses to increase marsh-building processes.
The terraces were planted with seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) and smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora).
The project is located on the east side of the Mississippi River near the crevasse (a break in the levee) that formed during the 1973 flood at Fort St. Philip in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.
The construction contractor mobilized to the project site in June 2006. A barge-mounted bucket dredge was used to construct the crevasses while marsh-buggy backhoes constructed the terraces. The six crevasses were completed in August 2006 with completion of the terraces in November 2006. A final inspection was conducted on December 4, 2006.
In acknowledgment of World Oceans Day (June 8, 2018) Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (New Orleans) celebrated with their annual Ocean Fest event on Saturday, June 9th. World Ocean Day is an opportunity to recognize how healthy oceans impact our food, the air we breathe, our climate, and many other aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, our oceans face many challenges.
Families, couples, and individuals from across the state and around the world learned about ocean creatures, current ocean problems such as microplastics, and even a bit about Louisiana Wetlands. They had the chance to talk with people from the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program and LSU Sea Grant, learning both how the oceans support them and how they can better support the oceans.
CWPPRA Outreach staff were set up in the Mississippi River area and had a hands-on learning activity- the Mysterious Wetland Wonders. People of all ages had to guess which Louisiana wetland organism was inside the box only by feeling with their hands and reading clues — Of course none of the items were alive! — but each represented an influential component of Louisiana wetlands, from invasive nutria which destroy marsh to bald cypress trees which are important economically and for wildlife habitat.
CWPPRA Outreach staff also had materials like the Protect Our Coast posters, stickers, and activity books available for the public, as well as literature about CWPPRA and recent issues of Watermarks. Citizens who had never heard of CWPRPA learned our mission in constructing projects that protect and restore wetlands and barrier islands in coastal Louisiana. CWPPRA projects may focus on land, but the connections between the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi and other rivers in Louisiana, coastal wetlands, and the communities that depend on those areas mean that each is an important part of what happens to the others.
Land loss and land gain are terms we throw around a lot at CWPPRA but what do they mean? Where does the old land go and where does the new land come from? To answer that, we need to understand that “land” is made of inorganic particles that we call sediment and various types of organic matter. Sand, clay, gravel, boulders, and silt are all types of sediment, and grain size is how we classify them.  For example, a boulder is larger than gravel, which is larger than a grain of sand, which is larger than a silt particle, etc. Sediment size influences how each grain experiences force and inertia, which leads to different rates of land loss and gain between sediments. Imagine holding a handful of sand in one hand and a handful of gravel in the other. Now imagine you blow as hard as you can on each one. More gravel would stay in your hand than sand. The same is true of sediment in water- smaller grains of sand can be picked up more easily by the forces acting on them than the gravel can.
Erosion detaches sediment from an original source, such as a cliff face or the middle of a valley. Over long periods of time, eroded particles get smaller and smaller, eventually degrading to sand or silt, depending on the mineral base. Once they get into a river or stream, their movement is connected to water flow. When water flows faster or stronger, it “suspends” and carries more sediment, while sediments in slower currents tend to settle out and “deposit” on the bottom of the lake, bayou, or swamp. Approximately 40% of the USA drains through the Mississippi River, and any suspended sediment in those waterways travels through Louisiana on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. 
Wetlands are defined by sediment type and other characteristics including salinity. In Louisiana, we have fresh water wetlands like swamps and bottomland hardwood forests, but also saline wetlands like salt and brackish marsh. Each of these wetlands types contains fine sediment particles, and they are all relatively new in the scope of geologic time. Because they are young, there are not many hard-packed substrates in Louisiana wetlands, but instead deeper layers of sediment that are compacting and subsiding.  Sediment replenishment is important to all the wetlands in Louisiana because new sediment is needed on top of compacting sediment to maintain elevations that support plant life and productive ecosystems. Unfortunately, sediments that should be replenishing the wetlands of Louisiana are not doing so. Instead, they are being transported out into the Gulf of Mexico or are trapped farther upstream behind dams. More information about this topic can be found in our post “The Mississippi River Deltaic Cycle”. Controlling the flow of the Mississippi river keeps sediments suspended for longer because water does not disperse or slow down as it naturally wants to. Without new sediment, marsh platforms lose structural integrity and they erode, leaving open water where marsh once was.
To answer the original question; for CWPPRA land loss is the process of sediment and marsh sinking or eroding into open water along Louisiana’s coastline and reducing the land available. Land gain describes the process of sediment depositing to form new platforms and it is much less common along our coast, but CWPPRA and their Partners in Restoration are working to restore the integrity of coastal wetlands by moving and capturing sediment, planting stabilizing species on terraces, and creating marsh in critical areas. Combating land loss is a multi-disciplinary effort, and we have a long fight ahead.
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 . 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 .
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 . 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.