coastal restoration

Examining the Gulf Coast's master plan

Aug 21, 2015
Lizzie O'Leary

When you talk to some residents along the Louisiana coast about rebuilding after Katrina, they'll say it almost doesn't matter if you rebuild the area unless its protected from another storm — and like many things, that hinges on money.

St. Bernard Parish from the air.
Jesse Hardman

A coalition of wetlands restoration advocates are using the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina to push their cause, rebuilding marsh along the Mississippi Delta. The MRGO Must Go Coalition wants to remind local residents that Hurricane Katrina’s impact was largely due to environmental degradation caused by private and public entities.

In a lush green bayou a little southeast of New Orleans, John Lopez and Howard Callahan are cruising the waterways in an airboat under the hot Louisiana sun on a recent day.

It's an area known as Breton Basin, and Callahan is a local land manager who often helps researchers such as Lopez explore environmental changes in coastal wetlands. The pair head to a concrete and steel structure that separates the bayou from the nearby Mississippi River.

Eve Abrams

Wetland Resources plants hurricane resistant trees to protect Louisiana’s coastline.

Demetra Kandalepas is a senior scientist at Wetland Resources. We’re on the way to visit their bald cypress and tupelo nursery. It’s in the middle of a marsh. We drive down a muddy path next to a huge, raised pipe.

Laine Kaplan-Levenson / WWNO

Who's still thinking about Christmas in spring? The New Orleans Department of Sanitation, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Guard. This generation-long partnership comes together for the annual Christmas tree drop. Christmas trees are picked up curbside after the new year, packaged into bundles, and dropped via helicopter into a local wetlands area to build back land mass. The National Guard uses it as a training exercise, and the nearby wildlife refuge Bayou Sauvage gets a coastal restoration project.

As the five-year anniversary approaches later this month of the BP oil spill, the Environmental  Defense Fund is gearing up for monitoring how restoration money is used to repair damage.

The Restore Act sets aside 80 percent of the still-undetermined billions of dollars in fines BP will be ordered to pay in Clean Water Act fines.

Some projects are already drawing critics. The Gulf Restoration Network is suing to block the money from being used for an Alabama convention center.

Natalie Peyronnin is director of science policy for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Listening Coast / WWNO

WWNO’s Listening Post community media project has mostly covered issues related to New Orleans. But WWNO’s signal reaches far beyond the city, and we want to explore what people along the Louisiana coast are thinking.

Naturally, our expansion is called the Listening Coast, and it has its own number: Text "hello" to 985-200-2433 (or call and leave a voicemail!) to get in touch.

Louisiana’s congressional delegation — most notably former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu — has fought for coastal restoration funding for years. And it’s just about to pay off big.

“In November of 2017, approximately $170-million is to be made available to the state — $140-million of which comes to the CPRA,” explains Kyle Graham, with Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. The source of the funds is a federal program known as GOMESA.


President Obama is proposing that an offshore revenue sharing plan, set to provide Louisiana millions of dollars in revenue for coastal restoration, be replaced with a plan that would spread that money across the nation for various issues.

  

Laine Kaplan-Levenson / WWNO

A New Orleans organization is trying to help fund coastal restoration by quantifying Louisiana wetlands, using hard numbers as a way to offset global carbon emissions.

Companies that send lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — such as power plants and oil refineries — need to offset some of that pollution. So they invest in green carbon projects by spending money on things like protecting forests. One Louisiana company wants to expand that tactic to the Gulf Coast.

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