January 2016 Newsletter

With 74 percent of Louisiana voters citing coastal erosion as the issue of their lifetime, a change of administration for the state might pose worrisome doubts about steadying the state of coastal restoration and protection. After meeting with new coastal leadership, the America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) issued the following statement by Foundation senior advisor, Sidney Coffee.

“Having had the pleasure of working with Johnny Bradberry during Governor Blanco’s administration while he served as transportation secretary, I saw first hand as director of the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities his focus and dedication to coastal issues. Bradberry’s leadership was instrumental in the state’s efforts to forge compromise and create the CPRA to comprehensively approach restoration and protection. He is a seasoned manager who listens closely, considers options thoughtfully, and acts decisively – traits we need in this position as real money begins to flow and hard choices surface.

“A recent meeting with him confirmed our confidence that Johnny will lead coastal efforts with balance, inclusiveness and with a sense of urgency in putting the master plan on the ground. He understands that these challenges cannot be politicized, that solutions must progress on a steady continuum and, most importantly, that funds be efficiently applied to ensure the greatest impact in moving from planning to action now. AWF looks forward to working with him and our new governor in the days and years to come as they respond to the urgency of coastal restoration.”

Phase One of the America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) Shoreline Stabilization and Restoration Project is complete; one mile of Vegetated EcoShield™ has been installed and planted to create habitat and to provide protection from storm surge for the community of Larose and for critical energy infrastructure.Phase One of the project stabilizes the Gulf-facing side of the GIWW where embankments are continuously lost to tidal surge, threatening freshwater marshes with saltwater intrusion and taking with it private lands bordering the canal.

The project is a clear path for private investment that makes good business sense, protecting environmental, community and economic assets at an affordable cost. In past years, the private landowner has had to rebuild the embankment numerous times due to continuous erosion caused by tidal surge and other forces.

Both traditional and innovative technology were used in the form of low cost bucket dredges and the vegetated, recycled plastic matrix material called Vegetated EcoShield™, produced from recycled, post-consumer plastic, which protects shorelines and stabilizes banks while promoting vegetative growth. By providing a protective medium for vegetation to establish, grow and spread, it enhances the natural processes of the system by creating vegetative shorelines and important coastal habitats.

“The first phase of the project is in the ground before a freeze and now nature can do its job,” Val Marmillion, AWF managing director, said, noting that planting in the fall allows the stalks of Roseau Cane to take root. “The plants are sprouting and the matrix is holding to the berm and protecting it.” In April, AWF will replace any plants lost to the winter and will add some additional Roseau if sparse, adding grasses to the top embankments. “If observations prove good in April, we are on our way to completing Phase One of the project with a record time performance and for a fraction of the price usually associated with wetland recovery,” Marmillion said.

The entire project involves a four-mile section of the GIWW shoreline, with Phase Two to begin in 2016 on the north-facing side. When complete, the restoration effort will help protect energy assets, secure seafood and recreational waterways and, at the same time, provide habitat for wildlife and waterfowl, while increasing protection from storm surge for nearby communities.

The project is supported with private funding through the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), CITGO, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Community Coffee, in partnership with Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the State of Louisiana, the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association and private landowners.

The America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) was once again showcased at the New Orleans Saints Charity Spotlight Game between the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 27 in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

The Saints honored the Foundation for its efforts to bring all interests to the table to find solutions to Louisiana’s coastal land loss and to raise a regional voice to the nation and the world about the ecological and economic value of the state’s endangered coast. The game marked the third year in a row the Saints have featured AWF at the Charity Spotlight Game.

“In the time it took the Saints to beat the Jaguars, Louisiana lost wetlands equal to four times the size of the very football field on which they played,” Val Marmillion, managing director of AWF, said. “The Saints are helping us spread the message that we can turn the tide in securing our coast’s vital assets,” Marmillion said.

Long-awaited federal regulations guiding millions of dollars in oil and gas revenues to coastal states for restoration projects beginning in 2017 were issued Wednesday (Dec. 30), setting amounts and when the money will be released.

The regulations resolve a key financial component guiding millions of oil and gas revenues to coastal restoration projects.

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue claims the regulations it issued will “broaden revenue sharing” under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA.

“The final regulations published (Wednesday) implement Phase II of the GOMESA legislation. Under the legislation, Phase II broadens the scope of leases subject to revenue sharing and thus increases the annual GOMESA disbursements to Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, and their eligible counties and parishes,” Greg Gould, director of the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, said.

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana’s degrading coastal environment is making the state more vulnerable to hurricane damage, and in 50 years, a Katrina-type storm could cause more than $133 billion in damage, according to a report commissioned by the state and presented Dec. 17 to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA).

The two-year study conducted by the LSU Economics and Policy Research Group and the RAND Corporation quantified economic impacts of ongoing and future land loss in Louisiana, demonstrating a need and justification for Coastal Master Plan project expenditures that can save billions during future storm events.

“Every dollar we spend today on coastal restoration and protection will save us many, many more dollars in the future,” CPRA Board Chairman Chip Kline said. “But beyond being cost-feasible, we’re talking about saving lives, families, homes, business and our way of life. This study by LSU and RAND is important in making our case to Congress and the nation that it is better for many reasons to spend now rather than later.”

The report examines potential economic implications of Louisiana’s land loss through a spatial analysis that layers future land loss and storm surge scenarios from the 2012 Coastal Master Plan onto today’s economy. The researchers’ approach examined both fixed assets and flows of economic activity occurring within the coastal zone as well as their cascading effects throughout the state and the nation.

Read more…