For Immediate Release: August 19, 2009
Contact: Chris Macaluso
CPRA Discusses Efforts to Speed Corps Processes and Managing Miss. River Water and Sediment at Monthly Meeting
BATON ROUGE -The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority discussed state efforts to speed up federal coastal restoration and protection processes as well as making the best use of water and sediment from the Mississippi River at its meeting Wednesday at the State Capitol.
The meeting began with the Authority receiving an update from Kyle Graham of the Governor's Office of Coastal Activities on the efforts of Louisiana's coastal restoration and protection officials to streamline and expedite the processes used by the Corps of Engineers when building restoration and protection projects.
Office of Coastal Activities and Authority officials released a list of concerns and potential solutions to slow bureaucratic regulations and processes currently used by the corps in July and then hosted a series of public meetings to gather input on that list.
A revised list that reflects suggestions gathered at those meetings and through other public comments has been posted on the CPRA website, Graham said. Please click here to read the updated list as of August 17.
Public comments on the updated draft will be accepted until August 27, Graham said. Letters of support from public officials, civic organizations and concerned citizens are being solicited as well until September 17.
"We have talked to the Louisiana Congressional Delegation about this effort and our concerns already and hope to have a final list to give to our delegation as well as other congressional members in mid-September," said Authority Chairman Garret Graves.
Authority members then received a detailed explanation from Dr. Harry Roberts and Dr. Robert Twilley of LSU about the current sediment carrying capacity of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers and how that capacity impacts coastal restoration efforts.
Roberts, a geologist who co-authored a paper released earlier this year that stated the rivers no longer carry enough sediment to stop coastal land loss in Louisiana, explained that more than 40,000 dams and levees built along the Mississippi River and its tributaries have cut the historic sediment load of the river by more than half.
Because of that and current and expected sea level rises, Roberts said it would be impossible to restore Louisiana's coast to the way it was 100 years ago when the Mississippi River basin was unfettered by dams and levees.
Those dams and levees, according to Roberts, have had a more detrimental impact on Louisiana's coast than any other human impacts including the digging of navigational channels and canals.
"This river basin once carried as much as 400-500 million tons of sediment per year before these dams and levees were built but now, because of these man-made structures, that is limited to only 200 million tons per year," Roberts said. "And, a great deal of the sediment that remains has been channeled off the Outer Continental Shelf and the system does not have the capacity to return that sediment to the coast."
Despite the gross loss of land-building sediment in the Mississippi Basin, both Roberts and Twilley agreed that Louisiana's current coastal restoration plans and efforts are essential to ensuring the sustainability of coastal marshes and barrier islands, provided there are changes to the current management of the river.
"We have to find a way to get the full sediment capacity of the river returned to the flood plain," Twilley said. "And there are some areas that we can save and some that we can't. We cannot simply continue to manage the river strictly for flood control and navigation or we will continue to lose land and get nothing back. Until we change the current management practices to include land building, we will struggle to save what marsh is still there."
Graves said the findings presented by Roberts and Twilley illustrate how essential it is for state coastal restoration and protection officials to continue to use the best available scientific data when deciding project priorities and where to direct funding.
Rick Raynie, head of the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration's applied sciences division, followed Roberts' and Twilley's discussion with a detailed presentation of current and planned Mississippi River diversions.
Raynie said the current diversion capacity through salinity control diversions such as the ones at Caernarvon in St. Bernard Parish and Davis Pond in St. Charles Parish, is more than 23,000 cubic feet of water per second. He also explained that there are 12 diversions currently being engineered and designed with additional projects being studied.
"Some of the diversions we're designing right now will be large enough to carry the sediment loads needed to build land and we are constantly studying which parts of the river will give us the most sediment through these diversions," Raynie said. "We know these diversions can work in helping us keep marsh healthy delivering the necessary sediments and nutrients. But, if we continue to lose sediments to the deep waters of the Gulf, we will continue to be more and more vulnerable and lose more land."
Graves urged all in South Louisiana to pay heed to the reports delivered by both Raynie and Roberts and Twilley because there has historically been some opposition to river diversions by various stakeholders living and working along Louisiana's coast.
"Everyone here has an obligation to participate with us to develop these projects," Graves said. "As far as I'm concerned, the energy industry, the fishing industry, the maritime industry, none of them is sustainable if we don't all put aside differences, become adaptable and work together to build these projects."
For more information about Louisiana's ongoing coastal restoration and hurricane protection efforts, please contact Chris Macaluso at 225-342-3968 or by email at email@example.com.
The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority's mandate is to develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive coastal protection and restoration master plan. For the first time in Louisiana's history, this single state authority will integrate coastal restoration and hurricane protection by marshalling the expertise and resources of the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Transportation and Development, and other state agencies, to speak with one clear voice for the future of Louisiana's coast. Working with federal, state and local political subdivisions, including levee districts, the CPRA will work to establish a safe and sustainable coast that will protect our communities, the nation's critical energy infrastructure, and our bountiful natural resources for generations to come. The CPRA of Louisiana was established by Act 8 of the 1st Extraordinary Session of 2005.