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.

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Endangered Species

Vanishing wetlands pose a threat to species who reside in these unique habitats for all or part of their life cycle. Population decline can be caused by a variety of threats, including invasive species competition, habitat loss, and overharvesting or over-predation. There are species who rely heavily on constant or predictable conditions in specific parts of the year such as seasonal rainfall, temperature cycles, and sometimes other species who migrate for part of the year. Populations subjected to too much stress for an extended period often experience population decline as well. In some cases, those species become threatened, endangered, or even extinct.

CWPPRA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will celebrate and observe Endangered Species Day on May 17th, 2019, to celebrate and highlight the species and habitat protection efforts throughout the coast. Louisiana is home to 11 endangered species, including three species of bivalve mollusks, three species of sea turtle, two species of birds, two plants, and one fish. Of these, every single one is reliant on wetlands. All three bivalves (fat pocketbook, pink mucket, and tan riffleshell) are freshwater filter feeders who live in flowing water. They clean pollutants from the water before it reaches our coastline, improving water quality for our coastal residents. Sea turtles are among the most popular sea creatures and they rely on our coast for their nesting grounds. Leatherback (largest, deepest-diving, and most migratory), hawksbill (thickest scutes/shells), and Kemp’s ridley (smallest and rarest) feed on different creatures, but they seem to all agree on jellyfish. The two bird species on the list are the interior least tern and the red-cockaded woodpecker. Terns are fishing birds that enjoy the banks of the Mississippi River, whereas the woodpeckers utilize the upland hardwood forest ecosystems of northern Louisiana. The two plants are American chaffseed and Louisiana quillwort. Chaffseed is a semiparasite that relies on fire to proliferate in longleaf pine forests. Louisiana quillwort is a semiaquatic graminoid (grass-like plant that spends some time underwater). The lone fish species, the Pallid Sturgeon, is a ray-finned, bottom-feeding, freshwater fish that can live up to a century. They like the turbid waters of the Mississippi River and its distributaries.

Clearly, these 11 native species have adapted to Louisiana’s dynamic landscape and they each fill a different niche within their respective habitats, so a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist for their preservation. CWPPRA funds projects that help maintain or restore vital habitat for these species and the other species they rely on for food. If a species goes locally extinct, it can have a ripple effect that throws off pre-established balances throughout the ecosystem. Coastal protection has an extensive impact, protecting areas further upstream as well, so CWPPRA indirectly eases pressure on the inland species. Endangered species are one of many reasons our coast deserves to be restored and protected.

For more information about these species and other threatened and endangered species, visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s website: https://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

The featured image is from https://www.nature.org/en-us/explore/animals-we-protect/leatherback-sea-turtle/

Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation (BA-42)

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The project is within the West Pointe a la Hache Mapping Unit which lost 38 percent of its marsh from 1932 to 1990. By the year 2050, 28 percent of the 1990 marsh acreage is expected to be lost. That loss is expected to occur even with operation of the West Pointe a la Hache Siphon (State project BA-04). Significant marsh loss has occurred south and east of Lake Hermitage and along the eastern lake shoreline. Deterioration of the lake rim has exposed interior marshes to the wave energy of Lake Hermitage and increased tidal exchange. Based on USGS land-water data from 1985 and 2006, the project area has an annual loss rate of -1.64%.

The original project features included dredging in the Mississippi River and pumping sediments via pipeline to create 549 acres of marsh. Additionally, 6,300 feet of shoreline restoration using river material and 7,300 linear feet of terraces were included. Fortunately, a favorable bid on the construction contract allowed for project expansion and the marsh creation feature was increased to encompass a total of 795 acres.

Funding from the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources – Office of Coastal Management, and Deepwater Horizon Early Restoration allowed construction of an additional 215 acres of marsh. Terraces were removed from the CWPPRA project to provide an area for marsh creation with Deepwater Horizon Early Restoration funding.

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The project area is located in the Barataria Basin, south and east of Lake Hermitage in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana near the community of West Pointe a la Hache.

The Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force approved funding for engineering and design in February 2006 and approved construction funding in January 2009. Construction began in February 2012 and was completed in June 2015.

This project is on Priority Project List 15.

The Federal Sponsor is USFWS

The Local Sponsor CPRA

Lafayette Family Adventure Day

On Saturday, March 16, as part of Family Adventure Day, a fundraiser for Healing House, a non-profit in Lafayette offering grief counseling for children, families explored 42 stations around town. Each station offered a free activity that could engage family members of all ages. Our table was set up at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) headquarters near the Cajundome. Some of our neighbors were the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS, one of our managing agencies), the Acadiana Park Nature Station, and LDWF .

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At our station, families could hold baby alligators and touch a few different animal hides with LDWF; play with Einstein, the albino corn snake from the Acadiana Park Nature Station; practice their fishing technique, plant seeds for pollinators, or identify different bird species using binoculars with USFWS. Our public outreach office brought our habitat toss game that highlights the differences between wetland habitats in Louisiana and why an animal species would live in one habitat but not another, as well as give some examples of species that use more than one type of habitat. We also brought plenty of educational publications.

An estimated ninety families passed through the LDWF headquarters during the day , so we saw about 300 people over the course of the event. Families visited locations like the Lafayette Science Museum, the UL Marine Survival Training Center, Bayou Vermilion District, and more. Our posters, magnet sheets and stickers were popular with the kids, and several families signed up to receive WaterMarks.

Family Adventure Day is an annual event, so be on the lookout for next year! We had a great day and we appreciate LDWF and USFWS for hosting us this year. We would also like to thank all of the families who came to support Healing House and learn about our area’s wildlife. Please enjoy the attached photos of families engaging with us and our neighbors.

 

Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge Shoreline Protection (ME-09)

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The management levee between the GIWW and the
Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge was in danger
of breaching as a result of erosion from boat traffic in the
GIWW. If breaching had occurred, wave energy from the
GIWW and salt water would have entered the organic,
freshwater wetlands.

A 13,200-foot rock breakwater was constructed 50 feet
from the northern bank of the GIWW to prevent waves
caused by boat traffic from overtopping and eroding the
remaining spoil bank.
The project’s effectiveness is being evaluated by shoreline
movement surveys and by comparing pre-construction and
post-construction aerial photographs for changes in marsh
loss rates.

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This project is located in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, on
the north shore of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
(GIWW), approximately 7 miles southeast of Sweet Lake
and to the east of Louisiana Highway 27 at its intersection
with the GIWW. It encompasses 640 acres of fresh marsh
and open water.

During 1993-97, while the project area had a 4.9% increase in
water coverage due to management for waterfowl, the
reference area remained unchanged.

The results of shoreline monitoring indicate that the project
has protected 13,200 feet of shoreline, along with 247 acres of
marsh north of the dike. This protection is expected to accrue
throughout the life of the project for a net restoration of at
least 23 acres. Monitoring has shown that the GIWW’s
northern shoreline advanced 9.8 feet per year in the project
area while retreating at a rate of 3.0 feet per year in the
reference area, indicating that low sediment availability does
not prohibit wetland creation behind rock dikes on navigation
channels.

To date, the project has exhibited success. It is expected that
the project area will continue to accrete new wetland area
between the spoil bank and the rock dike, further
safeguarding the adjacent wetland area from encroachment by
the GIWW.

This project is on Priority Project List 1.

 

The Federal Sponsor is USFWS

The Local Sponsor is 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

Wild Things

On Saturday, October 13th, the CWPPRA outreach team rolled up to the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Headquarters in Lacombe, LA for Wild Things. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service puts on Wild Things every year during National Wildlife Refuge Week to celebrate wildlife and getting out into nature. This year we brought our Wetland Wonders game, along with all our regular publications. We underestimated how popular our materials would be and quickly ran out of everything. We were set up on a beautiful day in the shade. Nearby, families could learn about wilderness survival, injured bird rehabilitation, native animal and plant species, and much more.

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The Wetland Wonders game was well-received by children and adults alike. We had a short lull around lunchtime but otherwise the boxes constantly had visitors. Our Wetland Wonders activity asks players to guess the object inside the box without looking at it. Players can feel inside and read clues that are on the front of the boxes. Many people start out timid from the mystery but play the game once they believe there is nothing alive or gross in the boxes. We enjoy events like this and we urge you to seek similar events for your family and friends. To find more events by the Fish and Wildlife Service, you can visit their website and search for your nearest Wildlife Refuge. Get out and #ProtectOurCoast!