National Estuaries Week

On August 3, 2017, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution designating the week of September 16th through September 23rd as National Estuaries Week.

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Over 100 million people nationwide live near estuaries and use these resources in their daily lives through agriculture, tourism, commercial fishing, power generation, and as shipping ports. Estuaries, where the river mouths meet the ocean, are where fresh and saltwater mix.  One of the most expansive and productive estuaries in the world is located in the United States at the interface of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Along with providing jobs, estuaries have one of the highest productivity rates among ecosystems in the world. Estuaries serve as habitat for fish, waterfowl, and a variety of other wildlife by providing food and shelter during migration and mating season.

Estuaries are a well-known hotspot for recreational fishing. Take part in celebrating National Estuaries Week by reeling in a big catch while helping to keep your estuary areas clean of trash and healthy for the wildlife and vegetation. Visit our friends over at the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program for a list of activities and ways you can participate in National Estuaries Week.

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Bayou Bonfouca Marsh Creation

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The marsh in this area was fairly stable prior to Hurricane
Katrina in August 2005. There was extensive damage to the
marsh along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and
especially localized in the marshes near Bayou Bonfouca
when the storm surge removed many acres of marsh. Marsh
loss rates should increase in the marsh surrounding these
newly created open water areas due to an increase in wind
driven fetch. Within the project area, the Lake Pontchartrain
shoreline erosion rates seem to be very low. Currently, there
is one large breach and several smaller ones in the Lake
Pontchartrain shoreline, with many more breaches seemingly
imminent. These breaches provide direct connection between
the fresher interior marshes and higher saline waters of Lake
Pontchartrain. The breaches in the bankline should be filled
before they grow to become a major exchange point causing
an increase in interior loss rates.

The primary goal of the project is to create 533 acres and
nourish 42 acres of low salinity brackish marsh in open
water areas adjacent to Bayou Bonfouca with sediment
pumped from Lake Pontchartrain.
This project would consist of placing sediment, hydraulically
dredged from Lake Pontchartrain, in open water sites to a
height of +1.2 NAVD 88 to create 458 acres and nourish
approximately 133 acres of marsh. Several historic marsh
ponds have been identified and would be restored. Tidal
creeks are also proposed to connect these ponds to facilitate
water exchange and fisheries access. Containment dikes
would be sufficiently gapped or degraded to allow for
fisheries access no later than three years post construction.

The project would result in approximately 424 net acres of
intermediate marsh over the 20-year project life.

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This project is located in Region 1, Pontchartrain Basin, St.
Tammany Parish. Parts of the project are located within Big
Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge adjacent to Bayou
Bonfouca.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 20.

The Bayou Bonfouca Marsh Creation project sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page.

The Pantanal — The Largest Wetland in the World

Located in the heart of South America is the world’s largest wetland that has not been significantly modified by humans, the Pantanal. The Pantanal is often referred to as South America’s biggest biodiversity star. However, it is also one of the continent’s best-kept secrets, often overshadowed by the Amazon Rainforest. This massive wetland covers an area estimated at 75,000 square miles across Bolivia, Paraguay, and (mostly) Brazil. The Pantanal is home to over 4,700 species of plants and animals.

The array of life in the Pantanal relies on an annual flooding cycle. When it rains, about 80 percent of the floodplain is submerged underwater; throughout the dry season the water lessens. This process is essential to nurturing a biologically diverse collection of plants and providing nutrients that the wetlands need to flourish. An area that is the size of Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, and Portugal combined needs a lot of water to guarantee that it continues to flood and a healthy ecosystem is preserved. The quality of the water is also important to maintaining a nourishing environment. Recently, human activity has been threatening this precious wetland. The Pantanal is threatened by intensive farming, deforestation, and pollution. Few signs of this situation improving are shown, and environmental issues are difficult to resolve quickly. Conservation of the biodiversity and natural resources of the Pantanal is essential.

Kelso Bayou Marsh Creation

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The most significant environmental problem affecting the
marshes in this area is deterioration and conversion to open
water. Marsh loss has and continues to occur as a result
of salt water intrusion and sediment export (erosion). The
construction of the Calcasieu Ship Channel and the Gulf
Intracoastal Waterway greatly increased the efficiency
of water exchange through Calcasieu Pass. Freshwater
retention was consequently reduced and salt water is able
to enter interior marshes and penetrate further north and
west. Project-area marshes are connected to the navigation
channels through a network of canals and bayous including
Kelso Bayou and Alkali Ditch. Unvegetated substrate
is vulnerable to increased tidal exchange and immense
quantities of organic substrate are being exported.
Recent marsh loss and scouring at the mouth of Kelso
Bayou from impacts related to Hurricanes Rita and Ike allow
increased salt water intrusion, tidal exchange, and storm
surge impacts.

The goal of this project is to restore and protect
approximately 319 acres of critically important marsh
and the numerous functions provided by those areas. The
proposed project will restore a portion of the historic
meandering channel of Kelso Bayou and provide direct
protection to Louisiana State Highway 27, the region’s only
northward hurricane evacuation route. Project features
include creating/nourishing 319 acres of marsh, 3,200 linear
feet of shoreline protection, and rock armor at the mouth of
Kelso Bayou to prevent additional tidal scour.

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This project is located in Region 4, Calcasieu-Sabine Basin,
Cameron Parish. The project features are located in an area
south of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and just west of the
Calcasieu Ship Channel.

This project is on Project Priority List (PPL) 20.

The Kelso Bayou Marsh Creation project sponsors include:

Keep up with this project and other CWPPRA projects on the project page. 

World Turtle Day

On May 23, we celebrated the 17th annual World Turtle Day sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue. This nonprofit organization was established in 1990 to protect all species of tortoises and turtles. They created World Turtle Day to serve as an annual observance of protecting tortoises and turtles around the world and their disappearing habitats. Wetlands that serve as habitat for turtles include shallow fresh waters, pelagic salt waters, and heavily and scarcely vegetated areas. Various species of turtles reside in every type of wetland environment.

Did You Know?

  • The majority of turtles that you see on the road are females traveling to their annual nesting sites.
  • Turtles like to eat dead material lying on the bottom of ponds, lakes, and wetlands. Turtles keep the water clean!
  • Snapping turtles rarely snap at humans in water. They do not like the way people smell or taste.
  • If you are helping a turtle cross the road, be sure to move the turtle in the same direction it was originally headed. DO NOT turn it back around! It is likely it will try to cross the road again.
  • If you touch a turtle, it is important that you wash your hands thoroughly. Turtles may carry salmonella.

How to Protect Turtles?

  • Avoid walking or driving on sandy areas where turtles are nesting.
  • Create a “no wake zone” to reduce damage to shoreline wetland habitats and stop the removal of plant materials.
  • Do not remove turtles from their natural habitats.

What Can You Do?

  • You can put signs and small barriers around nesting sites and wetlands that are on your property.
  • You can contact local programs to help pay for habitat restoration in your area.
  • You can add beneficial features to turtle habitat by planting native plants to buffer wetlands and turtle nesting areas. This will attract frogs, snails, insects, and other species that turtles eat.

LEEC 2017

The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Environmental Education Association hosted the 20th Environmental Education State Symposium on February 3-4, 2017 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Baton Rouge, La. The theme of this year’s symposium was “protecting Louisiana’s endangered species.”

The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission (LEEC) provides environmental education news from across Louisiana, including information on environmental education programs, workshops, and grant opportunities.  The state symposium furnished opportunities for formal and non-formal environmental educators from Louisiana and surrounding states to meet and share teaching techniques as well as multiple concurrent sessions for various topics and grade levels. Keynote speaker Dr. Jessica Kastler, Coordinator of Program Development at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Marine Education Center, used individual cases of endangered species to engage the audience in explorations of the process of science while cultivating environmental stewardship. In addition to the keynote speech, presenters in 15 concurrent sessions provided lesson demonstrations, hands-on workshops, and/or exemplary programs. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach Staff was among exhibitors with a multitude of materials to assist teachers of all grade levels in furthering their students’ knowledge in environmental education and coastal protection.

Waterfowl of the Wetlands

Mallard Duck

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Known to be one of the most easily recognizable species of waterfowl, the mallard duck is majestic, distinctive, and a wintering resident of the bayou state. The mallard is one of the most common ducks in the United States. With great variation between the two mallard genders, drake or male mallards have a bright yellow bill, prominent emerald green head, and white neck-ring, followed by a chestnut colored chest and dark colored rear. The hen or female mallards have a dark colored bill and are a mottled brown color with a dark brown stripe across the eye. Both drake and hen mallards have the characteristic violet-blue speculum with black and white borders. Mallard ducks are a migrating waterfowl species that can be found in Louisiana during winter. Among the dabbling ducks, mallards are one of the latest fall migrants with one of the most extended mallardmigration periods, lasting from late summer to early winter. During their migrant stay, mallards are found in agricultural fields, shallow marshes, oak-dominated forested wetlands, and coastal inlets with aquatic vegetation. Louisiana sits in the Mississippi Flyway, North America’s greatest and most heavily-used migration corridor. Louisiana’s coastal wetlands provide habitat for more than 5 million migratory waterfowl, approximately half of the wintering duck population of the Mississippi Flyway. Now, more than ever, restoration and protection of coastal wetlands is critical; if wetlands continue to diminish, Louisiana will no longer be known as “sportsman’s paradise”.