GOMA All Hands Meeting

Community Outreach and Media Specialist Kacie Wright represented the CWPPRA Outreach Team at the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) All Hands Meeting in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Like CWPPRA, GOMA highlights the importance of partnerships to enhance the health of the Gulf Coast. Similarly to CWPPRA being made up of five federal agencies, GOMA is led by leaders of the five Gulf States (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida) and includes a network of individuals from nonprofits, federal agencies, businesses, and academic organizations throughout the Gulf Coast. At the All Hands Meeting, attendees broke into Priority Issue Teams to address issues such as Community Resilience, Data & Monitoring, Education & Engagement, Habitat Resources, Wildlife & Fisheries, and Water Resources. 

Because CWPPRA promotes the value of wetlands and engage the public in the importance of coastal restoration, we attended the Education & Engagement Priority Team meeting. At the meeting, individuals shared new ideas and projects to enhance the Gulf Coast. Team members from the Texas Aquarium shared their work engaging teachers to improve coastal curriculum in schools through NOAA’s Watershed Environmental Education Grants. One individual from the Galveston Bay Keeper detailed her project on changing the behavior of individuals who toss their fishing line into the bay.

The Director of the Mississippi State University Television Center, David Garraway, also presented to the Education & Engagement Team about best practices for crafting effective visual storytelling and going live on social media. Garraway shared the importance of understanding your audience and the message you want to share when creating video content for social media. A key message of his presentation was “show your audience, don’t tell them” when creating videos. 

The Education & Engagement Team also highlighted GOMA’s Embrace the Gulf 2020 campaign. Next year is the ten-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the fifteen-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. GOMA will highlight the benefits gulf ecosystems bring to the communities along the coast. While these disasters have made us stronger, they do not define our communities. We all live and work along the Gulf Coast because we love it here. During Embrace the Gulf 2020, GOMAis planning 365 facts to share with their network and a blueways-paddling trail throughout all five Gulf States. This paddling trail will encourage people to get out on the water and enjoy the coastal ecosystems all along the Gulf Coast. 

The CWPPRA Outreach Team had a great time in Gulf Shores, Alabama, but we are excited to be back in Coastal Louisiana embracing all the new ideas about engaging outreach content and connections with other ambitious groups we formed at the GOMA All Hands Meeting. We are ready to Embrace the Gulf in 2020 and we hope to see you on the Paddle the Gulf paddle trail! We will keep y’all posted as it develops!

 

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Airboats: A Tool for Restoration

Navigating wetlands can be difficult for traditional boats due to the changes in water depth and the amount of mud and muck, as well as the meandering of the waterways. Because of these complications, boats that travel both over land and water are needed to explore coastal wetlands. The creation of airboats and innovations in their design have allowed for greater exploration of wetlands and are vital to CWPPRA’s wetland restoration.

Airboats evolved since their introduction in 1905 by Alexander Graham Bell, who is also credited as the inventor of the telephone. His first model was named the “Ugly Duckling”, a crude test vehicle that incorporated an aircraft propeller mounted on the back of a simple pontoon boat. Over the next decade, further developments turned airboats into World War I reconnaissance vessels. Following the end of the war, commercialization led to a rise in popularity among civilians with companies designing taxis and recreation vessels alongside independent innovators creating their own airboat designs. One of the most revolutionary models was built in 1943 at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah and dubbed the “Alligator I”. This design was the first known to use air rudders rather than traditional rudders, and most airboats today replicate the Alligator I’s flat bottom hull with air rudders. [1]

Thanks to the inventors at Bear River, Louisiana’s wetlands are more navigable than ever. Further developments have allowed airboats to pass over land, increased passenger capacity and engine horsepower, allowing those in pursuit of recreation, scientific research, and sport hunting/fishing to reach previously inaccessible parts of our wetlands. CWPPRA teams visit project sites using airboats to help get an idea of problems to be addressed through the duration of projects, ensuring the best quality of restoration for our coast. Restoration and preservation have been made easier with creative solutions like airboats, so we would like to recognize the innovators who worked a century ago to improve upon each other’s designs. Once again, the land loss crisis and need for wetland restoration in Louisiana is too large for us to do it alone. We need all the help we can get from innovators like those at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge to help restore our coast.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airboat#First_prototypes

Featured image is from a CWPPRA site visit to our BA-34-2 project.

Dustpan Maintenance Dredging Operations for Marsh Creation in the Mississippi River Delta Demonstration (MR-10)

wordpress fact sheet banner MR-10-01

Hopper dredges must dispose of their material in deep
water, making the spoil material unavailable for direct
marsh creation, although the material may still provide
nourishment for the system. In comparison to hopper
dredges, spoil from dustpan and cutterhead dredges can be
disposed of in shallow, open waters for marsh creation.

The project demonstrated the safe operation of a dustpan
hydraulic dredge in the critical Head of Passes reach of the
Mississippi River. This demonstration enables the use of
this type of dredge for the maintenance of this reach and
additional opportunity for the beneficial use of the dredge
material. Over the course of this demonstration project,
approximately 40 acres of deteriorated marsh that had
converted to shallow open water was restored with
approximately 222,000 cubic yards of dredge material
over the course of 8 days or 192 operating hours with the
expectation of an increase in marsh.

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The project is located in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, in
the Mississippi River Modern Delta. Dredging took place
near Cubit’s Gap, Head of Passes, and Southwest Pass.

The demonstration was completed in June 2002.
This project is on Priority Project List 6.

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

 

 

World Wetlands Day Outreach Event

Getting out and working with students is one of our favorite things to do in the public outreach office, so we are so glad we were hosted by the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center this past Friday, February 1, for World Wetlands Day. Located in downtown Houma, Louisiana, the SLWDC has a beautifully curated wetlands museum exhibit as well as warm and friendly staff. The event was mostly open to Houma area schoolchildren ranging from 3rd to 7th grade with a short period at the end during which the public could participate. Students cycled through and engaged with 7 tables that each had a different focus.

Going around the room, Restore or Retreat taught about coastal erosion with a small model of a barrier island’s sandy beach, then the USDA Agricultural Research Service had students match seeds to pictures of their parent plants. The next table was our host, the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, with a presentation about invasive species. They brought their resident nutria, Beignet, as an example. Next, the LSU Veterinary Teaching Wildlife Hospital brought two hawks and a screech owl, all of whom are residents at their school due to injuries. T Baker Smith demonstrated some restoration techniques like shoreline protection, vegetative planting, and marsh creation. After those techniques, Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) presented how it is important to treat wastewater and how wetlands act as filters, and BTNEP shared a few examples of animals with shells. We brought a game that uses bean bag animals to teach about how some species are confined to a specific habitat, but some animals can use more than one habitat.

The celebration started in response to the Feb 2, 1971 signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, which is an international treaty to recognize wetlands as vitally important ecosystems. [1] On this day, organizations worldwide share a mutual goal to raise awareness and spread appreciation for wetlands near them. We appreciate the opportunity to get out and interact with students and we are proud to have worked with so many other enthusiastic and educational groups. Many thanks to our hosts, visitors, and colleagues- we appreciate all of the work you do to #ProtectOurCoast.

 

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LSU Veterinary School Students taught about wildlife rehabilitation with amputee birds of prey.
Beignet
Beignet, the resident nutria, cannot cause massive marsh damage from his little cage, but he can tear up some carrots.

 

[1] https://www.ramsar.org/about-the-ramsar-convention

Looking Back

Former President George H.W. Bush signed Public Law 101-646, Title III CWPPRA into law in 1990 to combat the national issue of coastal land loss. Over 25 years after he left office and a week after the late President’s day of mourning, this legislation is still providing protection to billions of dollars’ worth of industry, major human settlements, and beautiful ecosystems.

At 28 years of projects and counting, CWPPRA is among the longest-standing federally-funded restoration ventures in the country, as well as one of the most successful. To date, 210 projects have been authorized across Louisiana’s coastal zone to restore 100,000+ acres of wetlands. Each year of operation, CWPPRA has approved funding on multiple projects scattered across our coast. The locations of our projects can be found at https://lacoast.gov/new/About/Basins.aspx.

CWPPRA projects are proposed by anyone and developed in conjunction with one of our 5 federal managing agencies and Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. The process of project selection is always a rigorous competition between candidate projects across Louisiana’s coast. Each proposal presents estimated ecological benefits, cost estimates, and a detailed plan for the desired project. At the beginning of each calendar year, Regional Planning Team meetings are held across the coast to hear proposals. The proposed projects are compiled into an annual Project Priority List (PPL). Upcoming proposal meetings can be found Jan 29-31, 2019 on our calendar at https://lacoast.gov/calendar/. Over the next year the CWPPRA Technical Committee and Task Force narrow the list of candidate projects. In December, the Technical Committee recommends their top 4 projects to the Task Force. The Task Force finally votes in January on the 4 projects they will fund for Phase I Engineering and Design. This annual cycle will complete its 28th round in late January 2019.

CWPPRA is excited about wrapping up PPL 28 next month and starting on PPL 29! Be on the lookout for announcements about projects chosen for funding at the January 24th Task Force meeting. We look forward to continuing our efforts to #ProtectOurCoast!

 

Featured image from https://projects.propublica.org/louisiana/