Watersheds and International Day of Action for Rivers

Water flows from the higher elevations of the northern United States to our low-lying wetlands. Surface elevation, on average, decreases from the northern border with Canada all the way to the mouth of the Mississippi River. What that means is that most of the water that falls between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains drains into the Mississippi and eventually in the coastal waters of Louisiana. We call this area the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) or the Mississippi River Watershed. [1] A watershed, by definition, is an area that drains to a river or lake. The Mississippi River Watershed encompasses nearly 41 percent of the United States.

Streams and ponds in the higher elevations of our watershed are fed by precipitation (rain, snow, hail, etc.) or springs. Water always follows the path of least resistance, which is downhill. Even on gradual slopes, water will seek out lower elevations. Flow rate is dependent on the angle of the slope, also called the elevation gradient. This explains why rivers in more mountainous regions flows faster than in our very flat land. Of course, some water will evaporate, some water will seep into the ground, and the rest will continue downstream until it gets to the ocean. While there are some exceptions to that rule, such as the Great Salt Lake in Utah and other Endorheic basins (no outlets besides evaporation), most water that falls on land will follow the water cycle that we all learned in grade school.

In Louisiana, the MARB outlets are the mouths of the Atchafalaya and Mississippi rivers and their distributaries. Because the state receives this water runoff through our bayous and marshes, so too does it collect  the trash and other pollution from the watershed. This pollution includes not only typical litter and non-point-source runoff, but also agricultural runoff that carries an abundance of nutrients. Select groups across the state are employing litter collection traps in bayous and streams to prevent trash from ending up in our coastal waters. More about these issues can be found in our articles about hypoxia stress and soil pollution.

The International Day of Action for Rivers will be celebrating healthy watersheds worldwide tomorrow, March 14. [2] We encourage our readers to do a little cleaning in their local waterways year-round but especially tomorrow. There are several groups around the state who organize clean-ups in our local waterways for any who are interested. Some of these groups can be found in our sources. As the third largest watershed in the world, the MARB supports numerous ecosystems and human settlements, and it is crucial that we keep it healthy for all its constituents. Each day, our coastal wetlands protect our cities and ports, so we at CWPPRA strive to return the favor and #ProtectOurCoast.

 

[1] https://www.epa.gov/ms-htf/mississippiatchafalaya-river-basin-marb

[2] https://www.internationalrivers.org/dayofactionforrivers

Featured image from http://www.bayouvermilionpreservation.org/photos.html

 

Action groups:

 

City of Lafayette: http://www.lafayettela.gov/EQ/Pages/Environmental-Outreach.aspx

Bayou Vermilion District: http://www.bayouvermiliondistrict.org/

Sierra Club: https://www.sierraclub.org/louisiana/what-do-you-want-do

BREC: http://www.brec.org/index.cfm/page/GroupVolunteerOpportunities

BTNEP: https://volunteer.btnep.org/

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South Grand Chenier Marsh Creation – Baker Tract

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Marshes within the Hog Bayou Watershed mapping unit are
stressed due to limited freshwater input and seasonal salinity
spikes exacerbated by construction of the Mermentau Ship
Channel. Other contributors to land loss in the area are
subsidence, compaction, and erosion of organic soils.
Currently, the project area is characterized as large, open
water with degraded areas of wetland vegetation and low
organic production. The dredging of the Mermentau Ship
Channel increased tidal amplitude and salt water intrusion
into the watershed.

The goal of the project is to create new wetland habitat,
restore degraded marsh, and reduce wave erosion of organic
soils. The project would promote the expansion of emergent
marsh and submerged aquatic vegetation throughout the
project area. Material dredged from the Gulf of Mexico will
be used to create and nourish approximately 420 acres of
marsh. Smooth cordgrass will be planted throughout the
area. To help facilitate estuarine fisheries access, constructed
retention levees will be degraded and approximately 11,756
linear feet of tidal creeks will be constructed.

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The project is located in planning Region 4, Mermentau
Basin in Cameron Parish within the Hog Bayou Watershed
Coast 2050 Mapping Unit. The mapping unit is bordered by
Lower Mud Lake to the west, the Gulf of Mexico to the
south, Rockefeller Refuge to the east, and Louisiana
Highway 82 to the north.

This project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 23.

The South Grand Chenier Marsh Creation – Baker Tract sponsors include:

 

Cameron-Creole Watershed Grand Bayou Marsh Creation

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Approximately 14,390 acres (32%) of the Cameron-Creole
Watershed Project (CCWP) marshes were lost to open water
from 1932 to 1990 at an average loss rate of 248 acres/year
(0.55 percent/year) due to subsidence and saltwater intrusion
from the Calcasieu Ship Channel. The
CCWP was implemented by the NRCS in 1989 to reduce
saltwater intrusion and stimulate restoration through
revegetation. Hurricanes Rita and Ike in 2005 and 2008
breached the watershed levee scouring the marsh and
allowing higher Calcasieu Lake salinities to enter the
watershed causing more land loss. The Calcasieu-Sabine
Basin lost 28 square miles (17,920 acres) (4.4%) as a result
of Hurricane Rita (Barras et al. 2006). Land loss is estimated
to be 1.33 percent/year based on USGS data from 1985 to
2009 within the extended project boundary.

Project goals include restoring and nourishing hurricane-scoured
marsh in the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife
Refuge and adjacent brackish marshes of the Calcasieu Lake
estuary. Approximately 3 million cubic yards of material
would be dredged from a borrow site proposed in Calcasieu
Lake and placed into two marsh creation areas north of
Grand Bayou to restore 609 acres and nourish approximately
7 acres of brackish marsh. The borrow site would be
designed to avoid and minimize impacts to oysters and other
sensitive aquatic habitat. Tidal creeks would be constructed
prior to placement of dredge material and retention levees
would be gapped to support estuarine fisheries access and
to achieve a functional marsh. The project would result in
approximately 534 net acres of brackish marsh over the 20-
year project life.

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This project is located in Region 4, Calcasieu-Sabine Basin,
Cameron Parish, 6 miles northeast from Cameron, LA, on
the Cameron Prairie NWR and Miami Corporation property
north of Grand Bayou.

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

The Cameron-Creole Watershed Grand Bayou Marsh Creation sponsors include:

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

 

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”.

TVFWD Annual Inspection Meeting

The Teche-Vermilion Basin Project was included in the 1966 Flood Control Act after a 1961 study by Louisiana’s Department of Public Works showed deteriorating water quality and insufficient water in Bayou Vermilion and Bayou Teche. Ground water was threatened with contamination by salt water due to lack of flow of the Teche and Vermilion Bayous. The purpose of the project is to restore the flow of water to the Teche-Vermilion basin, improve water quality through the increased flow, and prevent salt water from entering the lower parts of the basin. The increased flow is also intended to restore the water supply available for agricultural and industrial needs before the protection levees were built. The state legislature created the Teche-Vermilion Freshwater District Board of Commissioners in 1969. The Board of Commissions was charged with responsibility for the maintenance and operations of the original project of the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as major replacements.

On October 21, CWPPRA staff attended the Teche-Vermilion Fresh Water District Annual Inspection Meeting at the Teche-Vermilion Pump Station in Krotz Springs, La. The meeting began with a welcome speech from Donald Sagrera, TVFWD Executive Director. Introductions of property possession parish commissioners were made beginning with Ed Sonnier, Lafayette Parish; Donald Segura, Iberia Parish; Tommy Thibodeaux, St. Martin Parish; Mike Detraz, Vermilion Parish; and Bradley Grimmett, St. Landry Parish. A positive inspections report was given by Darrel Pontiff of Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, as well as Ted Elts of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ed Sonnier, TVFWD Chairman, introduced Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, who was the event’s guest speaker. The presentation continued with recognition of TVFWD staff and sponsors given by Cecil Knott, Operations Supervisor, and Alex Lopresto, TVFWD Legal Advisor. TVFWD Executive Director Donald Sagrera ended the ceremony with closing remarks.

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Wild Things Festival 2016

On October 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted the 19th Annual Wild Things Festival at the Southeast Louisiana Refuge Headquarters in Lacombe, La. This exciting family-friendly event gives the community an opportunity to engage in outdoor activities while celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week. This free public event included canoe and pontoon boat tours, hayrides, live animals, wildflower walks, kids activities, bird house building, live music, and a youth wildlife art competition.

The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach staff was among the 40 exhibitors providing hands-on activities to encourage knowledge of the Louisiana outdoors. In order to accurately portray the importance of aquatic, coastal regions, the CWPPRA staff utilized an ocean character, Sid the Restoration Squid, whose six unique legs each represented a different restoration method.  The six restoration methods include barrier island restorations, marsh creations, shoreline protection, hydrologic restoration, freshwater and sediment diversions, and terracing.  Each leg consisted of a distinct craft material that would correspond with a restoration method, in which children would assemble and personalize their own squid.  Each child’s personal squid was accompanied by an explanation guide of CWPPRA’s efforts to restore, protect, and/or create Louisiana’s wetlands.

CWPPRA

Did you know:

CWPPRA has protected, created, or restored approximately 96,806 acres of wetlands in Louisiana.

The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act has funded coastal restoration projects for 26 years. Presently, CWPPRA has 153 total active projects, 108 completed projects, 17 active construction projects, 23 projects currently in Engineering and Design and has enhanced more than 355,647 acres of wetlands . These projects provide for the long-term conservation of wetlands and dependent fish and wildlife populations. Projects funded by CWPPRA are cost-effective ways of restoring, protecting, and enhancing coastal wetlands. CWPPRA has a proven track record of superior coastal restoration science and monitoring technique in Louisiana. The success of the CWPPRA program has been essential in providing critical ecosystem stabilization along Louisiana’s coast and has provided pioneering solutions for land loss.

Visit CWPPRA’s website for more information!